Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to handpoke tattoo artist Indy Voet, who works out of Purple Sun in Brussels, about his clean, straight lined tattoos and his relation to body modifications…
How did you get into tattoo art and body mods? I started at the desk of a piercing shop when I was about 18, after about a year or two I was piercing full time and quite interested in general body mods. Since then I pretty much always worked in piercing and tattoo shops, piercing, getting tattooed, going to conventions etc. I would say the general transition into tattooing came during the last two to three years and voluntary or not I feel good about where I am right now and the people I am with.
Have you always loved the idea of hand poked tattoos or did you just try it on a whim? It felt more natural for me coming from the piercing background. It started out as just a few small things here and there on tattooers I knew, and then it all evolved from there to what I do now.
Sometimes you work with classic tattoo machines. Do you like to mix the two techniques? I started using both not so long ago after a push and a gift from Jean-Philippe Burton. I guess for me it’s about making good tattoos no matter if it’s by machine or by hand. It helps me achieve a visual I can’t by hand, sometimes for certain styles, and it opens up to more options but of course I have a lot more to learn.
Are you more into symbolism or traditional art? I have to admit I am into a lot of different things and a lot of different influences. I try to get inspired by quite obvious tattoo references as much as less obvious ones.
You do quite simple and very clean tattoos. Where do you get inspiration from? I guess that, by looking at my tattoos right now, the clearest influences are ethnic art, patterns and tattoos on one side, and western traditional on the other side.
What is the best part of your job? I actually love the whole process, from searching, to drawing, to meeting people. But if I have to choose the best part, that one is seeing the tattoo healed and settled. Seeing people and customers wear it in their everyday life. Seeing it interact with the rest of their tattoos but also with their general style. I enjoy that quite a bit and I always find it curious.
What about the tattoo community in Brussels? Are you planning to travel somewhere soon? Brussels is not a huge capital city but I guess there was a good number of shops that opened during the last few years. I am grateful I get along with a lot of the local tattooers and shops. The fact I can go to say hello or chill at other shops, I really appreciate that. I’m trying to do some city trips within Europe, where I can meet people I know, and once or twice a year I plan overseas travels.
What are the parts of the body you enjoy the most to tattoo? I would say ears for sure but I also enjoy fingers, eyelids, the torso etc. I guess as long as I technically can do a good job, and as long as it’s possible to make the design work in harmony with the spot, I am happy to continue to do so.
What are your top three images to tattoo? I don’t really have three but I would say anything simple with straight lines or anything not too serious, western old school are always fun for me to do.
Who are your favourite artists at the moment? Too many to mention, but to mention a few: Marine Martin, Burton Ursaeminoris, Bouits, Jacob Redmond, Matt Shamah, Florian Santus, Ronnie Ronson, Horimatsu Bunchin, Bastien Jean, Cokney, Chriss Dettmer, Jeff Zuck, Kane Trubenbacher, Toothtaker, Rudy Fritch, Dan Santoro, Gakkin, Lockhart, Josh Egnew, Duncan X and many many more!
We chat to 33-year-old Grace Pantony, Licensing and Marketing Director for Marshall Amplification, based in Milton Keynes, about developing Marshall as a lifestyle brand, her tattoos and of course love for music…
How old were you when you got your first tattoo? I got my first tattoo, when I was 18. I had a big tribal piece on my back. I am now in the process of having this covered up.
What drew you to tattoos, did anyone influence you? At the age of 14 I really got into heavy music, and tattoos came along with this culture. I listened to a lot of metal music and was adamant as soon as I was old enough I was going to get some tribal like my idol Kerry King of Slayer! Also, my dad had always been into tattoos and was covered himself, so it was something I grew up with and never thought anything of, other than I wanted one as soon as I could.
Back (cover up by Ade at Axios)
Can you tell us about some your tattoos? I got my first tattoo when I was 18, this is now in the progress of being covered up by Ade at Axios Tattoo in Hove. Ade’s specialism is Japanese tattooing, and I first came across his work about 15 years ago when he was working in Guildford. I love his style, and have also had a full sleeve and Japanese mask done on my leg done by Ade. I always said I would never get a band tattoo, but have now got four band related tattoos. I don’t regret them at all though and already have another band filler that I want doing at some point.
My current favourite tattoos of mine are my knees done by Elliott Wells at Triple Six Tattoo in Sunderland. I am so in love with the placement, the colour, the design – everything! I never get bored of looking at them. Elliott really has mastered peonies, and I would love to have more work done by him in the future.
How did you get into your current role? I started at Marshall as a temp after returning from a work placement in Los Angeles with a previous employer. Being really into music it was such a perfect company to work for and I was really happy to get the chance to even temp at the company. Once my temp position ended I was thankfully offered a job within another department, and it has been happily ever after!
Did you have to study or get any qualifications or have you worked your way up? I have worked my way up within Marshall as well as doing study in my spare time. I have studied skills that were identified as specific to the career direction I was looking for but that also benefited Marshall and the position I was in with them.
I have worked really closely with the managing director of the company to develop the Marshall brand within the lifestyle category which is outside our core product. This was a new segment for Marshall, therefore a new department was created. I saw this as a great opportunity so seized this chance and put myself forward to take the bull by the horns and run with the development of this department, it was something I had a huge interest in and also Marshall is a brand I love, so it was a perfect fit.
I was drunk at Leeds festival with my friend and I drew a dinosaur, afterwards we felt it needed to be a tattoo!
What is a typical day like? No day is the same. My job is really varied. Which is what I love the most. I have always been someone that needs a challenge and variety in my work. And this job certainly does that. I am the director for licensed products as well as marketing for the core brand. The role means I am immersed in Marshall in all ways, I live and breathe the brand.
An average day can involve approving a new product off the factory line through to event planning and coordinating. Reviewing counterfeit goods and trademark registrations with IP attorneys to setting up a record label – it’s my dream job! The role has developed so much, and I work with such a great team. We all love the brand and have a huge amount of fun, sometimes it makes you question that what you do is your job! But saying that it is hard work, we all work really, really hard but having a great team makes this a whole lot easier.
Music Week announcing Marshall launching a record label, of which I sit on the board of directors.
What do you love about your job? I love the variety that no day is the same. That I am challenged every day to push myself and learn more about the industry and products we work with. I am forever learning a new skill, and I love that. And I would be lying if working within music wasn’t a huge part of the love for the job. I get to be around music all day. Listen to it, work with it, and getting to go to gigs for your job – life doesn’t get much better than that! It’s a dream.
How do you dress for work? Do you show off your tattoos? How would you describe your style? I am by far the scruffiest and most casual director at Marshall. My go-to is high waisted jeans, vans and a band or Marshall baseball tee. I am a comfy dresser at work and also you never know when you will be lifting amps, so a skirt and heels really isn’t practical, especially as I can’t walk in them at the best of times. I don’t make a conscience effort to show my tattoos at work, but I certainly don’t hide them, and thankfully have never been expected to.
Before Marshall I worked for the government and hid my tattoos through the interview stage and also until I passed my six month probation, so to say they were shocked when they saw them was an understatement. But I always believe that you should be judged on the standard of your work, not on if you have tattoos. Sadly, I don’t think the government is quite ready for that way of thinking yet. But thankfully Marshall are more than happy with it.
Marshall always sponsor Movember, and I got a Mo tattooed to be an official Mo’sista
How do people react to your tattoos? I normally get “you didn’t look like the sort of girl to have tattoos” and I am not sure if that is a compliment or an insult so I just ignore it. I live in Milton Keynes, where it is becoming more common to see people with a lot of tattoos but I still think there aren’t that many females who are fairly covered, so whenever I go out I get people asking about them. But it’s always in a positive way. You always get people that only want to know how much you have spent, it still seems to be the most common question. I always find that bizarre, and again ignore it.
In a work capacity, no one has reacted negatively, if anything it is a positive as my arms have been used for marketing campaigns for the brand, so that I do take as a compliment!
Do you have any advice to other people considering their careers when getting tattooed? Regardless of career choice, you should always research what you want and who is the best person to do that. I learnt the hard way and lived with a bad tattoo for far too long.
When it comes to work and tattoos I think honesty is the best policy and also knowing what you want to work in and if tattoos are still a bit of a taboo in that career. I am lucky that I work in music and that tattoos are common place. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it when getting another one. When I got my fingers done, the first person I asked if they had any problems with it before I got it done was my boss. I wouldn’t want to do anything that could jeopardise my job regardless of how tolerant they are of tattooing – so yeah, be honest and run it past them before walking in with your hands done, it softens the blow that way!
Jo Black tattoos out of Black Inc Tattoo in Frome, Somerset and specialises in neo-traditional tattoos with a dark and gothic twist. We chat to Jo to find out more about the fun and vibrant studio, the artists that work there and the tattoos she creates…
Merry Morgan specialises in blackwork and apprenticed under Jo. He became a full time artist about a year and a half ago. He recently won his first award at the Northern Ireland show for his blackwork tattoos.
Verity Ann Fox specialises in neo-traditional in black and grey. Verity moved to black Inc this year from a shop in a neighbouring town. She has brought a fresh and exciting attitude into the shop. She currently works part time so she can spend as much time with her little girl as possible
Yoji Canniffe works in blackwork and tribal and joined the studio this year. He does most of the shops walk-in customers and loves anything tribal or blackwork.
INTERVIEW WITH JO BLACK
How long have you been tattooing? I have had my own shop for six years now, although I tattooed for a couple of years before that. We have expanded once already into a bigger shop and a second expansion is on the cards for the near future!
Tattoo by Jo Black
How did you start? What did you do before? I did it the wrong way and learned on my own legs and a friend took me under her wing at her studio to show me the right way to do it. Before tattooing I was at uni completing my graphic design degree in Cardiff. I was also a chef, this supported me through university. I actually decided to open my own shop in my third year and spent my final year commuting between Cardiff and Somerset to run the shop and complete my degree. It was hard work but it was so worth the effort!
Foot tattoo by Merry Morgan
Do you have a background in art? I have always been encouraged by my family to be creative and artistic, in primary school they noticed early on I had a passion for art and teachers throughout my education continued to nourish this. After GCSEs I went on to do a foundation degree in art and design and then a BA Hons in graphic communication.
Hamsa by Yoji Canniffe
What drew you to the tattoo world? Firstly it was the creativity and excitement of such an unusual art form, and one which so many people look down upon. When I realised that making a regular income from my canvas art was practically impossible, I started thinking about other options. As someone who already had tattooed it seemed to fit. Then as I got further and further into the industry I realised what an incredible community of just about every kind of person from every walk of life it is. I was totally hooked on just how many talented, beautiful and inspiring people I began to meet. Not just other tattoo artists but my clients as well!
Verity Ann Fox
Describe your style, has it changed? My style has always been neo-traditional, I suppose this is how I have always drawn anyway but I never had a label for it until I began to tattoo. But in my early days I was certainly more drawn towards a cartoon like style which I have outgrown and I now try to balance on the line between cartoon and reality. It’s what I enjoy most and even if it goes out of fashion I will plug at it until it comes back again.
Skull by Merry Morgan
What inspires you? My mum and dad, every day! They are so strong and patient and kind and generous and they have always supported me in every aspect of my career and personal life. Without them I would not be doing this now.Also, every artist I admire and look up to, not just tattooers but all kinds of artists, inspire me to do better and push myself all the time. I love flicking through books, fashion magazines and tattoo mags and just soaking up a bit of everything!
Lantern by Jo Black
What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? I always adore tattooing animals, the more natural the better for me, I don’t understand symmetry, my brain does not seem to work that way. I adore it visually and appreciate how incredible it is, but I find it hard to do things in a symmetrical way. Perhaps because nature isn’t symmetrical and I prefer to do nature based art.
I don’t often do tattoos that ‘celebrities’ have – the moment someone comes in and says ‘you know that one Cheryl Cole has’ my ears just tune out. I can’t think of anything less original than copying a tattoo someone already has.
Tattoo by Verity Ann Fox
Do you have any guest spots, guest artists or conventions planned? Next two tattoo conventions are the one in our home town Frome Tattoo Convention on Feb 18th and 19th. Then right after that I am at the Manchester Tattoo Tea Party which is one of my all time favourite shows to work. We have a constant flow of guest artists in the shop, next up is Beci Murphy and then Emily Dawson and then pretty much someone every other weekend thereafter. It’s great, keeps the studio fresh and exciting. I haven’t any guest spots planned at the moment because we might be moving shops again soon and I want to focus on that before I take any time off to travel.
Our guest blogger Dr Natalie McCreesh a fashion lecturer and freelance writer needs your stories for a academic research project discussing the relationship we have with fashion and the body, find out more below…
Do you have a tattoo that you have gotten for the sake of love? A partner’s name, a heart shape tattoo, matching tattoos with your sibling, a tattoo in honour of a lost relative, something silly with your best friend, perhaps something more abstract representing your emotions? We are collecting stories and photos of tattoos for love and we want to hear your stories. What is the story behind your tattoo? Why was this memory so important to have permanently inked on your skin? Did you get the tattoo for yourself or to represent something to others? How did you choose the design? Was the process of having the tattoo important or just the outcome? You can tell us as much or as little as you like.
Intrigued? Ok I’ll go first, fair is fair…
This my heart and dog tattoo – the design is a play on a nick name I have for my partner. I got the tattoo not because I felt I needed to have a declaration of love for him emblazoned on my skin. But to remind myself of how precious love is. It serves as a daily reminder and for that reason (as well as its gorgeous design) it is my favourite tattoo.
To get involved you can email Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org subject line ‘tattoo story’ or DM or tag us on Instagram @shoes_and_tattoos – all stories will remain anonymous unless permission given otherwise. Your stories and photos will contribute to a collaborative research project at the University of Huddersfield accumulating in a public exhibition and zine journal. For more information feel free to drop us a line using the contact details above.
The love child of a culture crazed couple, London based fashion brand 43T Clothing was created by Oli and Steph who pride themselves on their quirky and unconventional hand-printed apparel. We chatted to the pair to find out more about their eco-friendly fashion line, cool product illustrations and what inspired their collections…
What inspired you to set up the brand? The main reason we wanted to start our brand is because we both love fashion and always have growing up! We also like to think of ourselves as green people so we thought why not try and combine two of our passions?
What inspires your designs? They tend to come from things that we love or just ideas that sprout out of our head. The characters are all based on friends of ours and now they feel immortalised by the sketches.
We love your interesting sketch style product shots, what motivated you to create these? Right at the start we decided to combine our love of tattoos and art, that’s what inspired us to draw the doodles of our ’43T Characters’. We’ve chosen to use them instead of conventional models, as we both feel this aesthetically looks great and stands us out fro the crowd! We will eventually plan to use real human models but for the moment we like what the ’43T Characters’ give us and how we can keep adding more to the site.
What are your plans for the future, any new products in the pipeline? We have lots of new products coming out over the next three months and we have already started our new range. We feel it’s important to give people more variety so every Friday we release a new item onto the website and have done this for the past four weeks. This is going to be continued right up until Christmas so there is plenty to get excited about if you’re a 43T Customer! Finally our aim moving forward is to grow and grow, but not in terms of owning a million shops but grow our idea that eco and fashion can mix! Also that we should all support small businesses, creativity, individuality, music and the arts.
Why is being eco-friendly so important to you? Well being eco-friendly is important to us for a few reasons, the obvious being is we kinda frickin love this planet! Also we don’t see that many ecological brands out there so we wanted to show that it can still be fashionable to wear eco-friendly garments. Another big reason we wanted to go eco was because we feel there is no reason, in this day and age, that everyone shouldn’t produce eco or fair-trade clothing. Everyone that has tried on one of our famous Bamboo T-shirts can’t believe how super soft they are and what amazing quality they are!
Check out the website at 43tclothing.com
‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 22-year-old Bournemouth-hailing music journalism student, writer and editor James Musker, which focuses on tattooists, the interesting people that wear their work and both the artist and canvas’s relationship to the craft.
Maidstone John is a 25-year-old Cantebury-based freelance
Can you talk me through your relationship with tattoos? I got my first tattoo at The Brighton Tattoo Convention when I was 18. I got a portrait of my mum on my forearm, and it’s still one of my favourite tattoos to this day. My Uncle was a biker, and I’d always hang out with him and his friends who were all heavily tattooed at the time. Its always been my plan to be covered before I reach 30, and so far It’s going pretty well! I’ve always been lucky enough to have a lot of friends in the tattoo industry. I was over the moon when my buddy Chris got me a full-time job as a shop boy at a tattoo shop! At the time, it was never my intention to tattoo, but I would always draw and the boss would let me display my prints and drawings in the shop. I would often get asked if I was apprenticing, but I would always say no and tell people that it wasn’t for me. I left the shop on good terms after two years and moved on to Canterbury where I got an early morning job on a farm picking fruit and doing odd-jobs. Three Crows Tattoo in Canterbury was in the process of opening when I moved, and I would pop in whenever I could to help paint the walls and frame all of the flash. I told Adam, the owner, what I had been up to and that I planned to put a portfolio together over the next year or so to apply for an apprenticeship. There and then, he offered me an apprenticeship!
What’s the most valuable piece of knowledge that you’ve gained since the start of your apprenticeship? It’s kind of hard to explain, but I would personally have to say that gaining an understanding of the tools for the job at hand has been incredibly valuable. You have to take into consideration the area of skin you are working on, what needle grouping and voltage to have set-up and, of course, the high level of hygiene for the customer and everyone else in the studio.
What attracts you to black-work and etching? I have always worked in that style from day one. Craig Scott, Dan singer and Richard Sayer got me drawing in the first place and were always such strong influences, and it wasn’t until I discovered guys like DuncanX and Liam Sparks that I ever thought it would be possible to adapt that style to tattooing. I have always loved and appreciated every style of tattooing, but I personally think that black tattoos just look so strong, and as for the etching, I just want to be able to stand out and offer something a little different.
Can you tell me about your own tattoos? I wouldn’t say any of my tattoos have any particular meanings behind them. I’ve been tattooed by a fair few people now. My legs consist of a lot of apprentice tattoos by my friends when they were learning. I recently tattooed myself a few times too. My buddy Dan Frye has tattooed some of my favourite pieces of mine. He recently tattooed a solid, black spider caught in a traditional web right in the ditch of my knee. I’ve mainly been getting tattooed by Philip Yarnell recently though. We are currently in the middle of finishing off my front, which includes a huge bat across my chest and shoulders.
What is currently inspiring you? I am currently very inspired by old medical journals, as well as monster toys from the 80’s. I have a never-ending collection of books and curiosities. I’m pretty obsessed. Me and my pal Dan Carrington have some pretty gnarly collaborations in the works that involve murder and suicide victims, so keep your eyes peeled!
Have you tattooed anyone yet? I’m currently in the process of filling up my friends’ legs with as many small designs as we can possibly fit, including cover-up work and blast over’s, which I love to do. One of the first tattoos I did on him was this tripped out Mickey Mouse, the other being this devil moon. Both tattoos took me so long to do. I was in the shop by myself for one of them which was a struggle when it came to packing the black in. I was just so lucky and grateful for my trooper of a friend who let me do what I had to do.
Despite the struggle at the time, its all healed up better than I could ever have imagined. I was never nervous as such when tattooing, it was more excitement which was just as bad at the time because it still made me a little shaky, but that shortly disappeared. I am now up to tattoo number seven and I am happy to say I have defiantly gained a lot confidence and picked up a lot of speed in a pretty short gap. I still have such a long journey ahead of me but I am so determined to reach my goal and get to a point where I am clean and consistent enough to move on to bigger and busier designs.
Who inspires you artistically? I would have to say Dan Santoro, Daniel Higgs and Duncan X predominately – as well as everybody else at In To You. At the moment, I am so inspired by Jack Ankersen and my buddy Lice4Life when it comes to tattooing and printmaking: out of the box and out of this world. They both produce very unique and exciting stuff!
How do you see your work evolving? I’m just forever going to strive to get my line-work, blackwork and shading to the point where it is as clean and consistent as possible. At that point, I would like to focus on bringing back some of my more detailed and complicated designs. I will always be putting out flash and illustrations for records. I enjoy that side of things so much! I equally want to keep pushing that too.
31-year-old Boo Tattoo, is a handpoke tattoo artist who works out of Embody Tattoo Studio in Derby UK. We chatted to Boo about how she became a tattooist, her handpoke style and her own tattoo collection…
Modelling, make-up and hair by: TheBodyArtist
www.rugglez.com – (c) Matthew Craig (Rugglez) 2016
How long have you been tattooing? I started my apprenticeship at the end of 2009, so around seven years now.
How did you start? What did you do before? I had been asked to draw tattoo flash to sell and got a bit precious over my designs. I’ve always loved exploring different medias and decided I wanted to learn to tattoo my own designs. I couldn’t really leave it alone after that! I had one tattoo apprenticeship that fell through after a month so I then opened a fair-trade gift shop selling clothes I had revamped, jewellery I had made from vintage and broken pieces and much more. I shut it down after nearly two years to start a new apprenticeship at Tradition 180 Custom Tattoo studio.
Do you have a background in art? I have always drawn! It was crazy as in my second primary school I was actually taken out of art lessons to do more spelling as I am really dyslexic. I did 3D Design for Sustainability Ba Hons, it was pretty strict and so it kept me focused and well one of my life ethos is to live by the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Hence I guess why I am trying to make Embody Tattoo studio one of the first inclusive and sustainable tattoo studios in the UK. I want to minimalise our negative impact on the planet.
What drew you to the tattoo world? I very much fell in to it, I honestly thought I would be designing chairs and spoons, but I burnt through so many forms of art and so far handpoke tattooing has stuck. Every day I feel like I learn something new and I’m always looking to be better than yesterday.
How would you describe your style, has it changed? I try not to draw tattoo art and instead draw whats in my heart! I love realism but I try to make it more abstract. I love lines and I was told off a lot in art lessons for putting lines where there were none, I also love realistic forms and colour.
What do you like to tattoo and draw? At the moment I am trying to push handpoking as far as I can take it, so I’m loving colour blends and smooth grey shading. I love to draw things inspired by nature and incorporating symbolism, and relish encoding stories and thought into my pieces.
What inspires you? I’m interested in ancient cultures and their forms of art and symbolism, I get a lot of inspiration from there. Also the beauty of nature and our surroundings. I guess that why I also love the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. I often bump into things whilst looking up at either the flourishes on the tops of buildings or just the forms of the trees and skies.
What would you love to tattoo? And what would you refuse to do? It’s always amazing when someone asks for a piece of my art that I’ve just drawn. I love creating custom work for my clients, but its always pretty special to have someone see what comes from deep inside. I would love to do more free form and free hand work. I try not to refuse things, but to guide in a better direction, however I refuse to do anything with a hateful intent.
Do you have any guest spot or conventions planned? I do! After I have got Embody Tattoo studio running smoothly I hope to be back up in Aberdeen at Sailor Max Tattoo Parlour. I also have a few more guest spots to confirm with other studios such as Electric Lady Tattoo studio (Reading) and The Crow and Quill Tattoo studio (Southampton), so I’ll be up and around the country.
The next convention I am 100% working is the Goa Tattoo Festival and you will for sure be seeing me at next years Manchester’s Tattoo Tea Party and Doncaster’s Tattoo Jam. I’m still waiting to confirm a few more, but you’ll be certain to see me down in the south of England, across in Wales and up in Scotland.
Can you tell us about your own tattoos? On my body I mostly have abstract pattern work and nature inspired pieces. My sleeve was done by the man who taught me, Adam “Starfish” Dutton and contains so much I swear seven years on I am still finding new things! My neck is by Touka Voodoo and it is based on sacred geometry and I can’t wait to get it finished! I am collecting a thigh of skulls from artists I admire and love. I have Hermes wings on my feet which I handpoked myself and I have hands with peacock feathers on my left side for Hera. I also had five of my chakra points tattooed in order of the most under active, I’m yet to have my third eye and crown chakra though as I believe I’m not at that level yet. I am also collecting Swastikas in respect of ManWoman and his work trying to bring back the original meaning of the symbol, which is actually luck and good fortune!
Modelling, make-up and hair by: TheBodyArtist
www.rugglez.com – (c) Matthew Craig (Rugglez) 2016
Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about covering old tattoos and the idea of tattoo regret…
‘You’ll regret that when you’re older’ the charming phrase often uttered to those of us having decided to ink our skin. No longer in my reckless youth I am still choosing to cover my skin in tattoos and still being asked if I will regret that when I am older. Is there a defining age when you are considered old enough to be able to judge what your future self will and will not regret?
After laser and finished cover up by Paul Goss
Having laser removal and tattoo cover ups are often used as ammunition to back up warnings of regret, however removal and regret are not mutually exclusive. I have chosen to have both laser removal and cover ups. All of the six tattoos I gained in my teens and twenties have now been concealed underneath tattoos I have had in my thirties. When I am in my forties, fifties, sixties, hell even my nineties will I have covered up any of those I have now? Who can say, I certainly don’t claim to know what my future holds. The thing that most people presume is that I regret having the tattoos I now have covered up, this couldn’t be further from the truth. At the time I got the tattoos I could afford, I got the tattoos available to me at that time, I got the tattoos that I wanted. At seventeen I marched down to the local tattoo shop with a shaky sketch I had drawn and had it tattooed around my wrist. The drawing was crap and the tattoo was worse, but none of that mattered I had finally gotten the tattoo I had wanted for as long I could remember.
Cover up in progress by Kelly Smith
I’ve always known I would become tattooed from early on and it was just a case of waiting until I could pass for old enough. Whilst that was the tattoo for me then, it wasn’t the tattoo for me now. I’m not especially sentimental, the memories will always be with me, and so I didn’t think too much about having that tattoo covered over with a bold, black snake. My tattoos have changed as I have changed. I am no longer the teenage version of myself, I have grown and changed as a person. My clothes, hair style and body shape have all changed so why not my tattoos?
Given the choice I’d still rather have all my old tattoos than have no tattoos at all. Tattoos are so much more than pretty pictures on our skin, they are the experience, memories and emotions attached.
When did the Skin project come about and what is the idea behind these shots? Skin was created for a competition that I didn’t win, but that doesn’t matter now. I met so many wonderful people through the project which is more important that any prize. The title of the competition was simply ‘Skin’. I began to think of the various interpretations of skin, what you can do with it, the way we can see and feel it. The skin is the largest organ of our body and we can not live without it. One thing all human beings have in common is their skin and how it can cause a variety of relationships and reactions among people. Love, hate, contempt, worship and much more. ‘Skin’ is more than just aesthetics it explores how we live in it and how people really are inside their own body.
How did you select the personal stories of each one of the subjects? To select the people I searched the internet and I spread the word among my acquaintances. I only chose people who had interesting experiences or felt connected to their skin in some way. I listened to the story of each of them and the ones I chose were those that struck me the most. In each photo there is a summarising sentence, that encapsulates them as a person.
What did you like the most about this experience, both personally and professionally? What I liked the most was meeting extraordinary people that I would like to keep in my life. From a more professional side, this is the most methodical project I’ve done so far. From the start I already had an idea of how the aesthetics would be. However when photographing people I didn’t ask for them to pose, I took every picture naturally during our long talks. But I knew that I wanted clean, balanced and strong images. I usually get dragged a little more by improvisation and variety, but here I had to work within certain limits, and it was a great experience.
What are your thoughts about tattoo art? I have two tattoos, but I’ve never studied the history of tattooing. I don’t like how stereotyped people with tattoo are, and I don’t like them as a fashion trend. Saying that, not every tattoo should have a deep moral significance. My tattoos act as reminders for me. The words ‘here now’ remind me not to be anxious about the future, or decay in the past. ‘Write’, instead, reminds me to finish my novel. I chose Evelyn Hays, the tattooed girl in the Skin project, because she totally believes in this form of artistic expression. And I would have chosen her even if she hadn’t had tattoos, because she believes deeply in this art form.
Can you see a relationship between tattoos and photography? In a photographic portrait a tattoo can be a point of interest or it can be seen as a disturbance. I really like to photograph the naked body, and for some shots I look for women without tattoos, because the tattoo is somehow distracting. Tattoos attract the eye, and can disturb the lines of the body that I want to create. Other times, they accentuate the body.