Photographing Tattoos and Personality
Tattoos have been used by humans for generations, probably from the time man started getting organized into clans. Although various tattoos represent certain ideas, motifs, values and so forth, tattoos for the most part seem to portray or at least to some extent represent a part of an individual's personality.
Some recent studies have gone so far as to imply or have suggested that body art and tattoos are a extrovert form of showing a social anti-complacency, much like a sociopath.
"A tattoo is body art made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. Tattoos on humans are a type of decorative body modification, while tattoos on animals are most commonly used for identification purposes." Wikipedia
"Body art is art made on, with, or consisting of, the human body. The most common forms of body art are tattoos and body piercings, but other types include scarification, branding, scalpelling, shaping (for example tight-lacing of corsets), full body tattoo and body painting" Wikipedia
Regardless of your personal opinion or beliefs towards the practice of body art, more specifically tattoos, an interesting photographic project is to record images of various tattoos and the owners of such. How drastic you choose to be in your subject selection is totally dependent on you but if you have plans of selling these images, then a certain degree of sensibility should be considered and applied.
The theme involves photographing tattoos and body art with the idea of representing what the meaning behind the design is and to follow it up with an image of the person on whose body the tattoo or body art is. Try to record images of the facial features of the person, the general body location of the art, and the art itself.
It is also important to photograph images of the environment within which the person moves and especially their line of work. Images should also include photographs of the person with various outfits; those that show the tattoos and those that hide them and where or why each is worn.
The entire concept is aimed at making a connection between the body art and the personality of the person. Often one will be surprised by some of the designs and on who they are. Body types, career choices and many other factors can sometimes be an influence on the designs that are chosen. Other times the tattoos are done for a specific reason, such as a way of remembering a loved one, a special occasion, and to show loyalty which is a especially strong practice among the military.
Use a medium macro lens for close ups as well as a regular 55mm, also use diffused light to record details, although close ups are called for, aim to capture the entire tattoo or at least the main aspects of it in some of the photographs.
A well composed photographic composition will be very useful to tattoo parlors, for the general photo industry and can also be used by social and psychological publications as well as by some university studies.
Emphasize in your images the socio-economic status of your subjects, and how their body art has affected the way they live, behave and generally interact with others. Especial attention should be dedicated to any adversities that have arisen due in part to their choice in art.
This project should not be entirely a photographic one, instead accompany your images with a newsworthy article or analysis of how body art affects or has changed the lives of those who have it, costs, possible risks involved, and social circles.
Many publications and their editors will be very receptive to anything that makes their job easier and a well written piece which is also accompanied by high quality photographs that substantiate the article does just that.
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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez
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