Do you remember the first time you saw a tattoo, and what your reaction was?
The first time that really sticks out in my memory was when I met Syx Langemann, who was an instructor at Van Arts. He’s pretty heavily tattooed (Syx has full sleeves) and I was actually kind of shocked, I mean, I thought he must be a student and I was surprised that he was the teacher. You have to understand that I come from a culture where I had never seen tattoos. I couldn’t understand why someone would do that to their own body!
Do you have any tattoos yourself?
As a photographer, do you approach shooting a model with body art any differently than a model without tattoos?
For the Tattoo Project, I did. Not on the first day, but definitely on the second and third day.
What changed between the first day and the second day?
I started out the first day just shooting people. And then, after I had to a chance to absorb all the tattoos I had seen the first day, I realized I had to do something different. On the second day, my process changed. I became much more involved with my subjects.
How did you approach the Tattoo Project weekend?
In a completely technical way.
Did you have a concept in mind?
Yes I did, but it changed three times! First I wanted to do a white background, and then everyone (the other photographers in the Tattoo Project) started talking about doing something like Richard Avedon or Irving Penn, so I thought I’d use a black background, and a group of photographer’s were doing that, so I went with a medium grey background. And that’s what I used in the end.
After the fact, do you think your concept was successfully?
Once I put all the photos together I was very happy with my images. But I had to sleep on them for a while and take some time to digest what I’d done.
Did you get what you wanted from the weekend?
I really think I did, but it took me two weeks to get to that place. When I shoot, the images I get don’t always match the images I first started out imagining I would create. For me, I have to live with my stuff for a while.
Any tips for other photographers, for working with models who have tattoos?
It depends on the focus. If I’m photographing a person, I don’t care about the tattoos. But sometimes the tattoos are part of who a person is, and then the focus changes. For the Tattoo Project I popped up the tattoos in post.
Are tattoos and body modifications a problem in other work that you do? Do you ever have to shoot around tattoos or use cover-up make-up? Do you ever Photo Shop out tattoos?
No. I actually like it when a model has a tattoo, I think it adds something to their personality. But most models have a small tattoo or piece of script, you rarely see big tattoos on models.
What is it about a particular tattoo or an individual with tattoos that you find interesting? Have you ever seen a tattoo, or a person with tattoos and said, "I have to shoot that!"?
I like the fact that everyone’s tattoos are different. They’re unique to that person. I do think it says something about their personality. Especially after participating in the Tattoo Project weekend.
Was there a particular tattoo or tattooed person who stands out in your memory from the Tattoo Project weekend?
I did about thirty portraits, and every single person was interesting. They were all heavily tattooed and I was struck by what they were trying to express with all of their tattoos.
As a photographer and visual artist, what defines a good tattoo in your eyes? What design and aesthetic qualities are you looking for?
I can’t answer that, I don’t know enough about tattoos. Or even visual art! SEE ABOVE! :)
What would be your advice to someone who wants a great photo that shows their body art to its best advantage?
Get naked. Show all of the tattoo.
What is the biggest difference between shooting editorial work - say for someone like Bob Baxter at Skin & Ink - and working in a studio?
I find editorial work more interesting, but studio work is probably more demanding.
Any tips for taking good photos at tattoo conventions?
I’ve never worked a convention.
What do you think of the growing numbers of celebrities and models who have tattoos?
I couldn’t care less about it.
What tips would you give to the home photographer, tattoo enthusiast or tattoo artist who wants to take a great photograph of a tattoo?
You need to find a way to show the tattoo to its best advantage. The pose is important. Think it through, don’t just take a snap shot.
What would be your dream tattoo photography assignment?
I’d like to shoot another Tattoo Project, but with less time pressure. It would be great to do the Tattoo Project in a different city.
Was there any one thing in particular about participating the the Tattoo Project weekend that surprised you or that stands out as a truly memorable moment?
Over the course of the weekend I got to know the Producer Vince Hemingson, I have never met anyone like Vince before.
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