Belfast Telegraph

Can you name the unknown soldier? Northern Ireland celebs transformed for charity photography book

This ‘mystery‘ celebrity in US Army gear will have readers guessing

He is one of Northern Ireland’s best-known faces but even his closest friends don’t recognise him in this stunning new picture.

With his dirt-smeared face and bleeding lip, this well-groomed television star has been transformed into a shell-shocked American soldier.

His eyes wide with fear as he clings desperately to his rifle, the dishevelled face is almost unrecognisable in the scene from hit movie Saving Private Ryan.

Better known for his knowledge of current affairs, the mystery man embraced his love of military history as he posed for this wartime image.

And the haunting battle scene is a stark contrast to his appearance on prime time shows.

The unique image is part of a new book of pictures of Northern Ireland’s most famous actors, broadcasters and sports personalities in quirky poses.

The project, set up by UTV news cameraman Tommy Hassan, aims to show the other side of 60 of Ulster’s top celebrities.

Hassan, from Ballykelly in Co Derry, said he hoped to raise thousands of pounds for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice through his work.

“We are very much in the early phases,” said the 38-year-old, a former photography student. “But everyone we have approached has been happy to get on board.

“Eamonn Holmes and singer Duke Special have already said yes, and and I’m hoping the likes of Liam Neeson, Jimmy Nesbitt, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy will be up for it too. My head is so full of ideas that I keep a notebook by my bed to jot them all down when I wake up.”

Hassan said he enjoyed using photography to show an alternative side to well-known local faces. Much like this cleverly-disguised shot, his recent work takes familiar images and transforms them into something unexpected.

It took hours of elaborate make-up to transform this friendly presenter into a traumatised soldier from the Second World War. Khaki overalls and a metal helmet replaced his familiar shirt and tie as he donned an historic uniform belonging to a soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Among the other surreal pictures Hassan has already snapped is one of Marc Mallett from UTV standing in the sea in a suit. BBC presenter Noel Thompson will be photographed this week ‘mounted’ on a wall beside a moose’s head.

Radio presenter Johnny Hero has also taken part in the book, posing as a convict in a jail in the deep south of America.

The unusual charity project is based on the use of traditional film work rather than digital cameras or special effects.

“I know I could use all the tricks of the technology trade but I think the results are so much better this way,” said Hassan.

“No-one says ‘no’ when they hear that every penny from the book will go to the Children’s Hospice,” he added.



Click HERE to find out who the mystery soldier is...

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