Tattoos

Hello all and welcome to 2015!

As you can probably see, I’ve recently completed a total overhaul of my website, including a new (and, hopefully, consistent) blog section. The redesign was spurred by a very busy year of shooting a large variety of work in an attempt to really hone in on what inspires me as a photographer.

One of the styles of photography I have experimented a lot with and really grown to appreciate this year is portraiture. Portraiture is fascinating to me because, when done successfully, can express much more about a person than just a pretty face.  Portraiture is about expressing emotion and telling a story—and it doesn’t require a 6 ft tall blonde with 3% body fat. Not that I object to shooting those types either.  

Ages and ages ago (in September), I had a brilliant idea for a photo shoot. This shoot would involve numerous people—the special kind of people who have sat through hours of torture, been stabbed repeatedly and their bodies permanently altered (and all voluntarily, I might add).  As you may have surmised by now, I’m talking about those with tattoos.

Tattoos are kind of a strange and magical concept for me. They’re so…permanent.  I have none…not because I’m opposed to the idea, but because once they’re there, they’re not going anywhere.  When I consider the possibility, I typically think about whether or not I’ll still like it when I’m 85 and that usually puts the kibosh on that.  Incidentally, my husband has his wedding ring tattooed on my finger and I’ve still not done it…not sure what that says about our relationship. But I digress…

But there are plenty of people out there who do not share in this phobia of permanency. This series represents a handful of them, people of varying age from all walks of life. Though a fairly small representation of the tattooed populace (and admittedly not that diverse as they all shared in common an athletic lifestyle as my pool of applicants was generally limited to my fellow gym rats), these people, in spite of their differences, experience a lot of commonalities with regards to their decisions to go under the needle.

Perhaps the most prevalent themes amongst these people were these: achieving goals (an anniversary of overcoming addiction, triumphing over personal injury, overcoming divorce), honoring those who have had meaning in their lives (a family member, a pet, a friend, God and country) or representing a passion (from athletics to food)– these are tangible reminders to those people of what they have done, can do, and yearn to do with their lives.

Alternatively, there were a handful of people who were much less conservative in their choice of tattoos, selecting designs solely for aesthetic reasons or because of some visceral reaction.  Interestingly, no one I photographed really seemed to regret their decisions, though the content may have become less relevant to them through time.  In fact, many of these vignettes have either been forgotten or absorbed into a larger body of work; indeed many have seemed to find meaning not in their individual pieces but rather in their general use of their own bodies as canvases for art.

Thinking back on this experiment at this time of year, when many of us are immersed in a stage of self-reflection, is a poignant experience. I look upon these photographs of beautiful artwork, which for many symbolize a goal accomplished or an honor bestowed, and I myself am inspired to set (and honor) my own goals—both photographically and more broadly—and to pursue my passions.  As these folks demonstrate their accomplishments with fine art, so too as photographers do we, in the continuous evolution of our photography and the development of our portfolios over time. How fortunate of us to be able to witness our achievements visually!

I am also reminded that inaction is a hindrance in our lives. Some of these people took risks, sometimes haphazardly, in choosing their tattoos. They did not focus on the potential future implications of their choices (will I like this in 50 years?); they simply committed because at that time, it had meaning to them, and those choices ultimately became a part of them—a chapter in their life stories.  As a perfectionist myself, I am often paralyzed into inaction by fears about the reception, caliber and/or relevance of my work, but I have realized that I must be brave and put myself out there to learn, to progress, and to tell my own story.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to all those brave souls—Brad, Alex, Noel, Chelsey, Three, Cyndi, Shana, & Meagan—who participated in this project and shared their art and their stories with me.