Photographer seamlessly combines unlikely items into one cohesive picture

Artist creates eye-catching 'combophotos'
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Artist creates eye-catching 'combophotos'
(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)
toy car + real car "Darn traffic." Just continuing to plow through some old #combophoto favorites of yore. This one is especially near and dear to my heart for many reasons, but a big one is how hard Isla (who's 6 now, but was 4 at the time) worked with me on this one. She's a performer and she did a damn good job capturing the essence of a disgruntled motorist. It isn't true for everyone, but I always thought there was something sadly prophetic about this one... and funny. It's probably too late for guys like me, but let's all see what we can do to help our kids avoid growing up to become assholes.
paintbrush + spaghetti This definitely wasn't my favorite #combophoto of 2016, but it was definitely the most interesting as far as social experiments go. I put it to a vote with another similar execution. This one was the overwhelming favorite, which I never would've guessed. Just proof that I'm bad at judging my own work. Also, I did this on an absolute whim. I literally threw it together before work one morning. I do love how utterly random these things can come together sometimes. On some re-posts there was a lot of positive sentiments coupled with a lot of scrutiny over my bad photoshop skills. All that said, it was the most entertaining from #2016. Thanks for all the support last year, you guys made it great.
front loader + donuts 🍩🚜 just preparing for national donut day. #combophoto
gas nozzle + gun ⛽️🔫 not much to say about this one other than, I got a lot of help from some industrious friends (helping me avoid having to stage this shoot at a gas station... with a pistol in my hand). thanks friends. 👉 #combophoto

candle + flashlight

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

cupcake + toothbrush I got two cupcakes at @publix yesterday. two. I dropped one while walking to my car. I also bought 5 toothbrushes... none of which were dropped. there's an uninteresting outtake over at @combophotofail. #combophoto
smokestack + cigarette. #WHPeyetricks #combophoto
lucky charms + water tower okay, I'm done hammering my cereal love down everyone's eyeballs. truthfully this one is a work in progress. need to reshoot in the spring/summer. just not loving the wintery backdrop, but it's #nationalcerealday, so for today, let's go for it. eat up. #combophoto
peace + liberty let's keep it together out there. #combophoto
balloon + gun 🎈🔫 let's hope Tuesday doesn't blow up in our faces #combophoto
van + roller skate 🚐 this is another throwback, back when I was obsessed with combining wheeled objects (and contrasting scale). I shot the van (courtesy of @steveruggieri) on a backlot in LA and my daughters skate was shot in a parking lot here in Atlanta. The thing that stood out to me with this one was the positive reaction I got after posting it. I just wasn't expecting such a positive response. I can get pretty unsure of myself when things come together too easily, but fun doesn't depend on complexity. #combophoto
bridge + guitar getting this shot of the Brooklyn bridge with @flynyon was one of the more memorable experiences I've ever had. BONUS: we surprised the kids with an aerial excursion over Manhattan and I can honestly say I've never seen my straight-faced daughter smile as much as she did that day. more helicopter views on @combophotofail #combophoto 😀🚁
jalapeño + lipstick 🌶💄 hot lips. can't stop, won't stop with the jalapeños. at this point it's kind of hard for me to ignore those little shiny red peppers at the grocery store. every time I pass by, I stop and examine the latest crop. always interested in the most interesting/usable shapes and the elusive perfect green stem. they're my new banana, but I'll put the brakes on and find a new obsession. thanks to all the drugstore employees that took me in, without judgment, and accepted me for all my random lipstick purchases. a different interpretation of this idea over on @combophotofail. #combophoto
popsicle + piece of wood. I shot this #combophoto, what seems like ages ages ago, but I ended up posting a version that had my youngest daughter taking a big ol' bite out of the popsicle. I'll post that one on @combophotofail for a comparison. if everyone's down for it, let the judging begin.
ferris wheel + bike wheel this is a #combo photo throwback from a while back. unfortunately my original drone shot of the ferris wheel was pretty low res. luckily I was able to upgrade on my image quality during a recent trip to Southern California.
hammer + human 🔨🔨🔨 continuing to go deep into the #combophoto archives to dig up one of the earliest from this little diptych trip. repeated thanks to @alok_nath for his top notch torso modeling skills.
hose + waterfall ventured out to Grotto Falls in the Great Smokey Mountains (Tennessee) for this #combophoto. and then ventured out to the bushes in my front yard for the hose shot. hand modeling courtesy of @lmcm2 and freezing cold water modeling courtesy of my brother in law and my youngest daughter. thanks for all the fam love and assistance... ⚡️👊🏻⚡️
egg + helmet here's to the grownups getting things back underway tonight. a somewhat boring behind the scenes rig for your viewing pleasure over on @combophotofail. #combophoto
rubber band + bungee ride a little Atlanta rubber band action mixed with some Santa Monica bungee action. #combophoto
train tracks + zipper for as long as I've been aware of train tracks and zippers, I've always thought the two belonged together. #combophoto
headphones + donuts been on a donut bender as of late, so in keeping with said bender, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment and reminisce with this #combophoto of yore.
crab + excavator one of my favorite #combophotos from way back when. I have a few new ones in the works. hopefully we'll have something new to look at tomorrow.
hammock + banana From its inception as a crude "banana hammock" sketch to becoming a real live #combophoto, this one only took me about a year to finalize. the banana portion of this whole thing was relatively easy. the biggest thorn in my side was finding a suitable background (with proper tree spacing and what not). Once that got nailed down it ended up becoming a race between the 10 second timer on my camera and getting my butt up a hill (and in the hammock)... oh and looking relaxed. I only fell out twice. I think I'm all tapped out on banana combos, but who knows. 🍌's
grapes + balloon unfortunately I've been a little too busy lately to shoot any of the to-do #combophotos on my list. so let's throw it back to this 1 of 3 from my balloon + food series. #TBT

my daughter's skate + construction stuff

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

cherry + bowling ball 🍒🎳 continuing to look back at some of the earliest #combophotos. this was all shot and edited on my phone. I was impressed with the phone then and two years later, even more so now.
tree trunk + elephant trunk I've been wanting to do something with an elephant for a while now, but two things happened with that, I never felt like I had a super solid idea and I don't have access to elephants. Like ever. Cut to me in the Bahamas over thanksgiving and I couldn't help but notice how a lot of the palm trees grew low out the ground and every one of them looked like an elephant head... to me anyway. So that's what rattled around in my head and it quickly led to me obsessing over how to find a way to combine the two. And though I prefer to shoot these #combophotos myself, I also knew my elephant access was super limited. So rather than booking a flight to Africa I went online trying to find the perfect elephant. Which I did and what I found just so happened to work perfectly. This beautiful elephant image was captured behind the lens of Jez Bennett, a phenomenal nature photographer based in Zimbabwe. Huge thanks to Jez and please check out more of his work at... And a final thanks to the world wide web for being so world wide.
hand + legs ✌🏻️ let's go ahead and get weird. I shot a pretty identical and far more spontaneous version of this last weekend (as seen over on @combophotofail (daughters legs + wife's hand)). again, a spur of the moment... "hey annabelle, can I get you to stand like this for one second?" it was just a test, shot on the iPhone, liked it, but it lacked some of the textural umph I was looking for. you came very close iPhone, but my little Sony mirrorless swooped in and beat you on this round. special thanks to @lmcm2 for encouraging me to re-shoot it and patiently lending me your legs and hand. and additional thanks to @carlosmcgee316 for the use of your well manicured green grass. #combophoto
TBT: fries + smokes 🍟🚬 I posted this almost two years ago. it was during the very intermittent, somewhat sloppy, early days of #combophotos, but I still consider this one of my all time favorites. a lot of my older images need to be reshot for various reasons, but this one held up pretty well.
bacon + popsicle it's 2016. don't we have the technology to make this a thing yet? #baconsicle. #combophoto

pineapple + grenade

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

flowers & hand + tree 💐✋🏻🌳 here's a little early Mother's Day for Earth Day. and #tbt to 4.543 billion years ago when we got this whole party started. thanks Los Angeles for your cool trees conveniently located near my hotel... and for your blinding sunrise, which did a nice job accentuating the paleness of my skin (I had to shave my burly wrist for this one). #mothersday #earthday #combophoto
46 balloons + chairlift 🎈🚡 perhaps the most impractical/fun chairlift ever? once again, balloons proved to be the usual pain in the butt. I kept an eye on the weather for a while before getting the ideal conditions of clear skies and low wind. on meteorological paper you could say I got both, but the slightest breeze wreaks all sorts of havoc on balloons. what you see here was an early (and fortuitous) shot, by the end of this brief, early morning shoot, strings were tangled up like one big balloon dreadlock. check out the wind blown twisted mess over on @combophotofail. I started with 50 balloons and a small helium tank... only four popped during their transport from my kitchen to my favorite parking deck, hence the 46. R.I.P. 🎈🎈🎈🎈. oh and between us, I yell at balloons almost every time I shoot them. yell like a crazy person. not a fan. I fell better now. #combophoto @jasonsmithatl, I started down the helicopter path based on your suggestion, but this is where I ended up. I tried.
excavator + ice cream cone just a slight refresh of a past #combophoto.
candy + garden sprayer 🌈🚿 my daughter ended up the hero on this #combophoto. she was repeatedly pelted with rainbow colored candies (rhymes with spittles) and never complained. I captured a few outtakes on video. favorite one over on @combophotofail. #WHPvibrant
umbrella + candy cane. the weather is absolute crap down south and it seems like it might be that way for a while. hoping this will cheer everyone up. #combophoto

selfie stick + syringe

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

soda bottles + Christmas lights I wanted to mix this one up with different soda bottles, but I decided to go with the uniformity of one bottle type. early test shot over on @combophotofail. not pimping Fanta, but I am pimping a #Christmas #combophoto. my first test run on this idea was a disaster, but @calebdewart got me to straighten up and fly right. thanks for the quality creative direction, sir.

paint + boot

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

lightbulb + egg 💡🐓 R.I.P. to all the eggs lost on this one. I welcome all clever/punny commentary. #combophoto
turf + cake just taking samples of earth's delicious core. thanks to @morganlandd for snagging me this piece of turf. and thanks to whoever made this slice of cake over at @thefreshmarket. I took the cake shot back in January (so #tbt I guess?). apparently it can take a while for these things to come together. #combophoto #⛳️🍰

giant pipe + padlock 

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

yellow paint + yellow squash more experimentation with "synthetic meets organic." technical note: I used a toothpick to suspend the squash slices. and there's a not-all-that-interesting outtake on @combophotofail. #combophoto
cauliflower + poodle. while working in San Francisco last week, I managed to capture this #combophoto on the fly. pretty spontaneous stuff and it went down a little something like this: spotted a herd of standard poodles (3=herd)... asked for a photo while my subject took a tennis balls break (she, and her walker, said yes, but I made a crucial mistake and forgot to get names)... quickly took to the pavement and made a beeline to the nearest market (@mollie_stones)... secured some quality cauliflower... dismantled cauliflower... shot a bunch of cauliflower test subjects... found a match... (take a breath) and here's where I netted out. I actually got sweaty making this one. hills, people. thanks San Francisco mystery poodle and sorry cauliflower. #🐩 almost forgot... shot on the #iPhone (#iPhone6)
donuts + wheelbarrow 🍩🍩🍩 I stacked some donuts this weekend to see what my previously very square world looks like now that it can be a little more vertical. that said, I'm digging all the new views from the latest @instagram update. #combophoto
wheatgrass juice + garden hose more fun mixing liquids with solids. my brother @scottmcme suggested I have the hose watering a patch of wheatgrass along the bottom. which I thought was brilliant... if only I hadn't already shot this when I showed it to him. and if only I had a wheatgrass connection. and if only I wasn't so damn lazy. if only. #lazy #combophoto
milk + rope. not a whole lot to say about this one. it's milk and piece of rope. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here.
golf ball + water tower I've seen this water tower numerous times, but only from the air. if you're landing in Atlanta from the west (and you're on the left side of the plane), you'll see it. it's just beyond the airport and conveniently located right by a golf course, which I where I got the used golf ball (for 75¢). it was kind of fun trying to track down the water tower. I went to google earth and looked for the white dot west of the airport. I took the drone out on a Sunday and learned the hard way that there are automatic height restrictions when you fly a drone around any airport. whatever the limit was, this vantage point seemed to do the trick. not sure why, but the tower from the ground was quite a spectacle, or it was to me anyway. I'll put a ground view photo on @combophotofail. check out more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #🎮🚁 #ComboPhotos
winter + summer ❄️🍦 though it isn't officially summer yet, it's officially hot as hell in Atlanta. so here's a little #tbt to the cooler months. thank you @erriemarie and @gnarguin for helping me get this shot during my last visit to @whistlerblacomb. and a big thanks to my youngest for her exceptional hand modeling skills. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #ComboPhotos
Swiss Army knife + some tools 🇨🇭🔪 head over to @combophotofail to check out my rigging before I knew what I actually wanted to do here. a few more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #ComboPhotos
tomato + boxing glove I stole/borrowed @moloeb's boxing glove for this one. and I bought/purchases the tomato at a bodega up the street. and thus we have tomato/glove. this one kinda doesn't make sense to me, but I think that's why I like it. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #combophotos

real fist + toy gun

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

UPDATE: as most of you saw when this was originally posted, I put it to a vote between two different plane tails. the results are posted over at @combophotofail. thanks again to all that participated. seagull + airplane the seagull was taken on the Santa Monica pier and the airplane (I think it's a MD90 or MD88) was taken at the Hertz rental car return lot at LAX. both locations have pretty great vantage points if you're looking to capture the undercarriage of flying animals or machines. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #vscocam #seagull #airplane #MD90 #MD88 #avgeek #layout #combophotos
. hotdog + telehandler (aka: big forklift)🍴 special thanks to Jose Santillan for his convincing performance of befuddlement over a giant invisible hotdog. actually I just asked him to "look up" and he pretty much brought his own magic to the party from there. and props to the construction foreman for the use of one of his many heavy equipment props (and that wall). more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #combophotos
meatball + forklift 🍝 spaghetti and meatball from a pizza place down the street (vintage pizza). forklift is from "the lot" in Hollywood California (on the other side of the country from my street). thanks to "the lot" transportation captain, Robert, for modeling and forklifting. additional #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #combophotos
chainsaw + butter this one started out as a butter knife going into a log, but @wplindsay76 suggested this instead. I still plan on nabbing that original idea, but I though this was a good call. this is my first #combophoto using #layout. #chainsaw #butter #vscocam #combophotos
excavator + ice cream scoop 🚧🍦 construction equipment colliding with desert equipment... again. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #excavator #chocolate #icecream #scoop #vscocam #combophotos

PVC pipe + chocolate milk & straw

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

ice cream (+sprinkles) + front loader 🍦🚜 this one was tricky and really numbing, but only because I had to pop the ice cream shot in the cold. in this case, the coldest day of the year. I lucked out with 14° at shoot time (and blue sky). all sorts of respect for the @chrisburkard's of the world for constantly capturing amazing images in the freezing cold. shooting when you can't feel your hands was a whole new challenge. double tip of the cap to the food stylists that deal with ice cream. not easy. a little learning moment over at @combophotofail. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #icecream #truck #sprinkles #cold #vscocam #combophotos

tomato + balloon

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

cup and straw + water tower. not a ton of water tower options in Atlanta, but I found this one (without chick-fil-a cows on it). an APD officer was kind enough to let me take the drone up to get this shot. oh and kids are kinda gross right? more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #watertower #straw #weloveatl #vscocam #combophotos

flower + umbrella 

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

monster truck + donuts. 🚚🍩 another cloudy day on the east side. consider this my attempt at bringing a little sun/fun to the party. and personally I think it would behoove the dunkin' donuts corporation to construct such a vehicle. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. and an outtake at @combophotofail. #monstertruck #truck #donut #vscocam #combophotos
spray paint + fire hydrant. now I can stop obsessively studying fire hydrants everywhere I go. turns out there's an abundance of variety in the hydrant category. additional #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #fire #spraypaint #vscocam #graffiti #combophotos
carrots + scissors ✂️ and an uneventful outtake on @combophotofail. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #carrots #scissors #vscocam #combophotos

wood posts + fry container 

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

jack-o'-lantern + balloon 🎃🎈 tacking this on to the old balloon series from a while back. my favorite part of this was breaking the skeleton's hand into little pieces and then hot gluing everything back into a "holding a balloon" position (assuming that's how a skeleton would hold a balloon). happy early halloween... again. a few outtake images can be seen here @combophotofail. more #combophoto's ⬅️ here. #diptych #balloon #pumpkin #jackolantern #skeleton #halloween #vsco #vscocam #combophotos
happy #college #football day. foam finger + human finger. #combophoto #diptych #ncaa #combophotos
goldfish + goldfish®. fish is alive and back in the tank. cracker is in my belly. #combophoto #goldfish #fish #vsco #vscocam #combophotos
(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

trumpet vine + traffic cones 

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

smokestack + Washington Monument 

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

surfboard + knife 🏄🔪 sometimes I plan these out, but most of the time an idea just pops in my head and then I impulsively abandon everything I'm doing to go shoot random objects and see what happens. this was definitely a "go shoot and see what happens" exercise. on this one in particular the issue wasn't whether or not the two objects would combine as much as finding a background that worked (which happens a lot with these). this one started on concrete, which worked okay, but after sitting on it I realized... I'm at the beach, I should try sand. sand was definitely an improvement, but as a last ditch effort I planted the surfboard in the sand, shot the board vertically and then shot the knife handle the same way, lined 'em up in the PicFrame app, rotated everything 90° and this is where I netted out. I started a @combophotofail outtakes page so everyone can see my failed attempts, before and after, etc. check out all the other #combophoto's 👈here. #diptych #surf #surfing #knife #floating #vsco #vscocam #combophotos

hands + deer

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

pen point. #sharpie #finger #combophoto #vscocam ##combophotos

drink umbrella + beach umbrella

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

steamroller + bread 

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

faucet + balloons💧💧💧💧 I flipped the balloons upside down on this one, which to my eye, makes the overall lighting look a little funky, but I'm going with it. I take a lot of these blue sky background shots on the top deck of a parking garage... which pretty much equates to wind. it only took me 117 attempts till I got this shot of balloons positioned in a straight line. long story short, this was way more of a challenge than I expected. random balloon outtakes over at @combophotofail. #combophoto

fist + Statue of Liberty

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

tree + shovel. #whpappreciateearth #combophoto #combophotos

nail polish + fresh pavement & car

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

Capitol Hill + pill (or pill-hill) This image is from a series of #combophotos that I was asked to create for the @wsj. The series focuses on Washington D.C. and its relationship with business. In this case D.C. and the healthcare industry. More to come.

candles + peace

(Photo via Stephen McMennamy/Instagram)

lobster + pliers. #combophoto #lobster #pliers #vscocam #vsco (thanks to @k2ene for helping me select the perfect lobster claw) #combophotos
#tbt to that time I got desperate and had to take out Mr. Peanut. #MrPeanut #peanut #vsco #vscocam
bullhorn + gun 📢🔫 say it, don't spray it. #combophoto

Two is better than one -- it's true when problem solving, when ordering scoops of ice cream and in this case, when combining two unlikely items into one cohesive image.

Stephen McMennamy has worked in advertising for nearly two decades and one day discovered himself missing the "making" side of the business and that's how his clever "combophotos" came to be. He was inspired by the content he was seeing on Instagram and ended up honing his unique technique seemingly by accident.

"I was playing with a collage app on my phone and I took two old photos from my daughter's birthday -- her face and a balloon -- and I combined the two. That was the start of it all and after that I felt like the flood gates opened up," McMennamy said.

McMennamy combines everything from a pineapple and a grenade to a bowling ball and a cherry into images in which it's often difficult to discern where one item stops and the other begins. The process begins with tests on his iPhone. He then transitions to his camera and Photoshop to make the final product. While many of the combinations could be made from stock images, the majority are all shot by McMennamy, which is an aspect of his art that he goes to great lengths to accomplish.

"Last fall I really wanted a shot of a bridge (to pair with the body of a guitar), which I'm sure I could've found through stock, but I thought it would be a hell of a lot more fun to dangle out of a helicopter rather than searching for photos online," McMennamy added.

There's much to be said about seeing the world through a child's eyes. Combing a paint brush and spaghetti or headphones and donut may seem farfetched to an adult -- but to a child, that likely sounds more feasible. That's one of the things McMennamy taps into when creating his combophotos.

The combinations are all fun to look at, but some can also take on a bigger meaning -- like the vices of fast food french fries and a pack of cigarettes. McMennamy says the overall message is mostly about connections and once the combinations are out there it's really up to the viewer to interpret them as they wish.

"Some connections can be totally abstract, some can reinforce the notion of overindulgence, some suggest we are out of control with food and portion sizes, some call out how much human design is inspired by nature, but mostly it's fun to try and look at the world through the lens of connecting things that otherwise would never be connected," he said.

McMennamy would love to one day turn his combophotos into sculptures. But until then, there is still a long list of combinations he wishes to tackle.

"I'm chasing after images all the time and I get whatever I can get," he said.

Make sure to check out the slideshow above, which includes unique stories from McMennamy about how specific combophotos came to fruition.

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