Tagged: Tattoo Photography

Women with Tattoos

The gorgeous blog Women with Tattoos was started by digital producer and photographer Eleni Stefanou, 30, from London, a year ago. To celebrate we caught up with Eleni to find out more about her inspiration behind starting the blog and her own collection of tattoos…

Portrait of Eleni by Eftihia Stefanidi

Photographer Eleni started Women with Tattoos blog
to record the stories that may otherwise go unheard

Photograph by Eftihia Stefanidi

Women with Tattoos
is celebrating its first birthday, but what inspired you to start it? 
I was spending hours on Tumblr researching my first tattoo when I realised how one-dimensional the representation of women with tattoos was. It’s the kind of imagery you’d find in a lad’s mag – women dressed and photographed to gratify the male gaze. Around the same time, a study came out revealing that, for the first time in recorded history, tattooed women outnumbered tattooed men. That’s pretty fascinating, yet mainstream culture wasn’t reflecting and exploring this shift. Women with Tattoos was an attempt to record some of the stories that may go unheard and to offer beautiful images that women could identify with.

Describe the blog in one sentence…
I think of it as a visual love letter to tattooed women.



How has it evolved over the first year? It’s hopefully become more diverse in its representation of women from different backgrounds. I’ve also focused a bit more on the artistry of tattooing, by interviewing female tattoo artists and linking to portfolios when crediting the artists behind the featured tattoos. On a more general level, I’ve slowed down quite a bit. I used to do photo shoots almost every weekend, and while I loved it, it was becoming exhausting alongside my full-time job. I had to remind myself that this was something I was doing in my own time for my own enjoyment and that any pressure I felt was self-inflicted.



Who has been your most stand-out portrait, why? There’s a photo I took of a woman called Gabriella, which is really hypnotic. We were in Camley Street Natural Park, this beautiful nature reserve hidden away in a busy part of London. Gabriella has a beautiful botanical tattoo by Saira Hunjan down the length of her arm. It includes a lemon, butterfly, bluebells and other flowers and there’s lots of negative space around these elements, so it’s not your typical sleeve. Ironically, her tattoos aren’t that visible in this photo, but I kind of love that they’re subtle and blend in with the nature around her. First you see Gabriella, the person, then you see her tattoos.



What have you learnt while shooting these portraits? I’ve learnt that most people feel quite vulnerable when they’re being photographed. As someone who spends a lot of energy avoiding the lens, I can completely relate to this. So I try and adapt my approach depending on the person. Some of the women like to talk a lot in between shooting, while others prefer to listen to music.

I’ve also found that photography can be an empowering experience for many women. One of the most common feelings they express when I reveal their portraits is a sense of surprise at how beautiful they look. But they *are* beautiful and I’m just capturing what I see. It’s like the photo becomes a form of validation. When I photograph someone, they’re the only person in the universe in that moment. My focus is entirely on them, in fact, often I catch myself gasping for air because I’ve forgotten to breathe! Hopefully, the women can sense that they have my full attention and admiration, which is something that comes through their disposition in the photos.

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What do you hope others will take from them? I really hope that the project will help shift people’s perspectives and prejudices about tattooed women. A friend of mine who I went to school with told me that he never really liked or understood tattoos, especially on women, but now he finds them beautiful and reads all the interviews on the blog. I also hope that women will see the project and feel understood and valued – that’s probably the most important thing.



Tell us about your own tattoos…. I have a dotwork prism on my side rib and a wreath on my inner arm. My tattoos are a source of strength – they crystalise what’s important to me in life. I’m a big believer in the power of symbols and how they can hold meaning and memories. Every time I do a photo shoot I have a really strong urge to get tattooed. I try to avoid rushing into things though. Luckily, most of my favourite artists live in the US, South Korea and New Zealand, which kind of enforces a more patient approach.



Where do you hope to take the blog over the course of the next year? I’d really love to travel to new places and represent cultures that aren’t reflected in the blog. I want to find out what it’s like to be have tattoos as a woman in other parts of the world – what is the common ground and what are the differences in experience? I want to photograph and interview more women who are over the age of forty (a large portion of the women I photograph happen to be in their 20s and 30s) and I’m really keen to speak to someone who has a mastectomy tattoo – to find out more about the healing process of covering a scar with a tattoo. I’m naturally inquisitive and drawn to people and their stories, so this is the driving force behind what I do.



To view more portraits of women with tattoos, visit womenwithtattoos.co.uk

The Tattoo Project, a Book Review

I’m a person who loves supporting worthy causes and projects, tattoo related or not. So, when a friend sent me a link to The Tattoo Project, I fell in love instantly and wanted to help. After speaking with the creative genius behind the project, Vince Hemingson, I decided I would talk about the project in the next issue of Things & Ink, and try to spread the word about it, help bring attention to the Kickstarter fundraising campaign, and just increase awareness about the project and how worthy it is. To help accomplish this and to give me a more concrete idea of what the project was about, Vince sent me a copy of the book. My first reaction after opening the box was how heavy it was (it’s 240 pages of thick, glossy, high-quality paper, and a lovely hard cover), the superior construction of the book itself (it’s very well-made and will hold up to lots and lots of perusing), and the images are absolutely, incredibly, gobsmackingly stunning. I was in bliss, and it has been a long time since I felt that with a contemporary book featuring photographs of tattooed people. My Things & Ink article will speak more to this.

I spent just over 2 hours just turning pages, taking everything in the book had to offer visually. The book consists of images shot by 11 fine arts photographers (both men & women), of several tattooed subjects of both sexes, and the photographs were shot over a 3 day period in Vancouver, B.C.. There are over 200 full-page images in the book, plus the forward by P. J. Reece, documentary director’s notes by Jack Silberman, a description of the 3 days of shooting the project by Bob Baxter, details about Pennylane Shen who curated the exhibition for The Tattoo Project, and then photos of the exhibition event, and then the acknowledgments (you can see all of this in the shot of the table of contents in the gallery below). Also, each photographer has a small write-up on their introduction page that includes details about them and sometimes their thoughts and/or approach to the project shoots or what they hope to demonstrate through their images. A very lovely personal touch that gives you some insight into the photos that follow and the personal style of that photographer. The way the book is assembled, the contrasts in style between all the photographers is highlighted and their uniqueness is celebrated. There is a wonderful flow from one photographer to the next, and the effect is just immensely aesthetically pleasing. I enjoyed and really liked the works of each photographer for, and for different reasons. I loved the subjects too, their tattoo styles and bodies so unique and all so lovely for their own natural reasons. There’s a lot of diversity in age, body size, and tattoo style. The tattoos in this book are also very lovely in and of themselves, apart from the skin they are on.

Every image is overflowing with artistic expression and passion; whether the subjects are male or female, naked or clothed, each is photographed in a way that communicates an intention for beauty, respect, celebration and adoration of the tattooed subject. There’s no smut in here; there’s no extreme sexualization; there’s nothing derogatory or demeaning or sexist. One photographer has a retro pin-up style, but it’s rather lovely, cheeky and sweet, not pornish at all. Vince told me in a conversation that the pursuit of beauty is its own reward, and that is very evidently on the minds of the photographers for this volume. He also said that he feels it’s important for everyone to be a feminist, and that sentiment is also very present and loud here too. The photographs of these tattooed folks are at times reminiscent of paintings I’ve seen in galleries or books, that classical celebration of beauty and the human form you see in pieces by artists like Botticelli, Delecroix, and David. Some of the men’s shots, the body poses, remind me of classic ancient Greek sculptures. It’s so wonderful to see modern photography, tattooing, and a classic sense of artistic beauty brought together in a project.

Honestly, this book is a must-have for anyone who adores, celebrates, and seeks to be part of the positive elements and energies of the tattoo culture. It’s tasteful, it’s very artsy (and classy) and it’s just so damn beautiful to look at. It’s tattooed people photographed in a way that anyone can look at and enjoy: adults and kids alike. I will proudly put this on my coffee table, maybe with a chain on it as someone might take it. It’s tattoo culture at its highest form.

Be sure and visit the Kickstarter page for the Tattoo Project, check out the video and all the wonderful things you can get for donating. Please share this post or the links below with friends, family or those you know who are in or who adore tattoo culture. This project is so amazing, this documentary MUST be made.

Here’s everything important you need to knowing about The Tattoo Project:

The Tattoo Project takes a journey to the heart of “who we are.”
“Beauty is skin deep, but a tattoo goes all the way to the bone.” 
~ Vince Hemingson

The Tattoo Project is Hemingson’s attempt to prove that his apocryphal quote is true. Experimental photo shoot, gallery exhibition, and coffee table book—so far The Tattoo Project has made waves in the photo and tattoo worlds. But where’s the documentary film? – It’s one Kickstarter campaign away.

The Tattoo Project documentary team is turning to the tattoo and photography and art communities to help them over the final financial hurdle of editing the over 24 hours of amazing footage captured from the original three-day Tattoo Project Photo Shoot and the opening night of their one-of-a-kind Gallery Exhibition. If successful, the crowdfunding campaign will result in a one-hour broadcast quality documentary, and for the Special Edition version, another hour of behind the scenes footage and interviews with the creative team.

The film is the chance to tell the stories revealed by The Tattoo Project. To go beneath the skin and behind the eye to explore the zone where tattoo art meets portrait art. It’s a journey to the heart of “who we are.”

In this short video, Director Jack Silberman explains the vision for the film and gives a sneak preview at some of the amazing footage that will be used.

Says Hemingson: “I have always been struck by the extraordinary power that tattoos have to reveal a person’s inner self. What we wear on our skin is an outward reflection of who we are on the inside. So the symbols people choose to decorate their bodies with, they’re proclaiming to the rest of the world, “This is who I am.”

Can photography capture both the external self and the inner self? That’s the big question, and the heart and the soul of The Tattoo Project. As Hemingson says, “If the body is a temple, then our tattoos are its stained-glass windows.” Tattoos tell stories. Our film reveals those stories to you.

Useful Links:



Kick Starter Project: http://kck.st/1mXYFTY

The Tattoo Project Promotional video: http://youtu.be/gBLBmFnrJaU

Media images from The Tattoo project for download: http://bit.ly/1u41WDN

The Vanishing Tattoo Documentary: http://youtu.be/ql7xxYxSag8

Media coverage of the Tattoo Project

Marisa Kakoulas, Needles & Sins, Review of The Tattoo Project: http://ow.ly/x7Vbu

Bob Baxter, Review of The Tattoo Project Weekend: http://ow.ly/x7V2X

Bob Baxter, Review of The Tattoo Project Gallery Exhibition: http://ow.ly/x7V5n

For more information please contact: Vincent Errol Hemingson
Email: vince@thetattooproject.com

Vince Hemingson is an award-winning photographer, screenwriter, best-selling author, filmmaker and the creator of www.vanishingtattoo.com, one of the internet’s largest, most popular and critically acclaimed websites related to tattoos and body art, which is visited by some ten million visitors every year. He co-produced, co-wrote and co-hosted The Vanishing Tattoo documentary film, which was broadcast on National Geographic International and was seen by tens of millions of people in over one hundred countries around the world. Hemingson is regarded as one of the world’s leading researchers into tattoos and their place within popular culture and he is often called upon to comment about tattoos and body art to the mainstream media.