The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Scottish Tattoo Convention – Part 1

“Excuse me!” Do you mind if I take your photo?”

I’d finally said it. Now was the moment of truth. Would he say yes, or would he punch me in the face and smash my camera?

This weekend past, Rogan and I went to the Scottish Tattoo Convention in Edinburgh. Neither of us sought, or left with, a tattoo (I think Maggie might quite possibly have divorced me if either of us had returned with one) – we were there to take photos. Or rather I was there to take photos and Rogan was along for the ride.

Rewind to last Autumn when I was in Bathgate taking photos of The Sex Pistols Experience. The lead singer of the support band, Cash From Chaos, is a guy called Skid, and I took some photos of him and his band on the same evening.

Delighted with the images, he asked me if I’d be interested in attending the Scottish Tattoo Convention in Edinburgh – he knew the organisers, his band was playing there and he could get me and Rogan a pass.

As someone who loves faces, the opportunity to take photos of people milling around with tattoos, piercings and probably a few wild hairstyles too, seemed too good to miss.

However, there were 2 major problems to overcome. The 1st was how I was going to manage to get to Edinburgh and back, and enjoy the convention with the limited energy I have because of the CFS.

We decided to drive up early on Saturday morning – it’s about 2½ hours to Edinburgh – stay overnight at a Travelodge on the outskirts and drive home on Sunday. During the mid-afternoon, when my energy levels are at their lowest, I put the car seat down and rested for a couple of hours in car park.

This worked, although I am paying the price this week with (even more) excessive tiredness.

The 2nd problem was how I was going to overcome my reticence at asking random strangers if it would be ok to take their photo. The very thought of it made my stomach knot up and would bring me out in a cold sweat.

It’s a very different thing to take a photo of someone you know, or a client who wants (is indeed paying) you to, than it is to intrude on someone else’s personal space, uninvited.

When we entered the convention there were hundreds of people I would love to have had in a studio to photograph. Outlandish hairstyles, multiple facial piercings and, of course, the biggest collection of tattoos I have ever seen.

I couldn’t back down now, and return without photographing anyone. Not only would I feel sick at myself for chickening out, but I had Rogan with me, and I couldn’t lose face in front of my son.

There was no choice. A guy with studs protruding from under his lips and a tattoo on his neck, poking up from under his t-shirt, was heading in our direction.

“Excuse me!” Do you mind if I take your photo?”

Part 2 to follow.


mapstew said...

I've been waiting up all night for this!

Kim, let me tell you, as a tatooed person, and a performer, nothing makes us feel better that when someone wants to take our photie!
(Well that's srt of a lie, in that I never mind people taking my pic when I'm performing, and will go as much to say that I actively encourage it, by beckoning all camera owners in my direction when one is performing. And I quite like it when people ask about or stare at my tattoos.

I am though quite, nay, VERY self conscious when getting ordinary 'snapshots' taken. Why is that? Maybe I don't want folk to see the 'real' me? Though you are my photographer of choice to capture the (insert real name) (that would be Martin Stewart) (don't tell anyone!) :¬)

Now. When's we gonna see them photies?

(Great pic of the youngfella on FB btw! Looks like a rockstar!) :¬)

mapstew said...

I really should check my spelling before posting! :¬/

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron said...

Kim, portrait photographs are my favorite. Landscapes are nice but after awhile, they all seem the same. Now people, that's another whole different story. I understand your reluctance to get into someone's face and take their picture. The way I see it, you can either get a gigantic telephoto lense and sneak the photos or just go up and ask them. Asking also creates a knot in my stomach. I have had people look at me like I was a stalker or a pervert for wanting to take pictures of their children. It is a tough call. However, I would think that at a tatoo convention the folks there would only be too glad to have their pictures taken. Whenever I take pictures of strangers I always offer to send them a copy by e-mail and most accept glady. I hope strike gold and take some really interesting and differnt portrait photos of the folks attending this tattoo convention.

emma said...

So glad you made it there and took some photos, can't wait to see them.

I'm seriously impressed about the asking people, I feel the same way about taking photos of random strangers, have tried lurking unobtrusively although that probably makes things worse:)

Thrup'ny bits said...

I'm looking forward to the rest of this . . . .

DocStout said...

I've only got a single tattoo, but as it is a pint of Guinness, I'm regularly asked for photos if it is visible.

Jayne said...

I'll just add myself to the growing list of folks waiting to see your photos Kim! I'm curious to know if you took any in black & white.....
I'd hazard a guess & say that most of us with ink are quite happy for people to take photos :-)

Roschelle said...

can't wait to see the artwork. i have two tatts (nothing colorful, big or fancy). excited about seeing your photographs!!

A Daft Scots Lass said...

No pix?

Pat said...

I find it easier when you don't speak the same language so in India I would gesture with the camera and what I hoped was a charming querying smile. Afterwards I would give them the prayer gesture and it seemed to work

Guyana-Gyal said...

I think it's so cool the way you and your son hang out.

I'd once read about chronic fatigue, does it go away? I'd never have guessed, Kim, you always sound full of energy. I hope it goes away.

Aoife.Troxel said...

I went with my mum to an art exhibition that she was reporting on as her "photographer". She worked for a small newspaper, so she normally had to take her own photos. While I could see many people who were perfect for a picture, it was very awkward as the normal procedure was to take the photo and then ask if they minded it being published in the newspaper. Then you had to take down their name for the caption and make sure that you could remember who it was when looking back over the photos so jotting down a little description was helpful. In the end I took about ten photos and then relinquished the camera.

hope said...

Oh yeah...set up us and make us take a nap until the photos appear. ;)

Lynne said...

oh man you're not playing fair! ;-P I feel for you. I get that way too. I would love to say can I take your photo, but I'm afraid what they might do or say. Hope you DID get some photos and tell the story. :-D Oh and if anyone in the Atlanta GA area "Can I take your photo?' :-D

Carole said...

You're a mean one Mr. Grinch...
Seriously, you just left us hanging?

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post looking forward to "the photos"!

Anonymous said...

That's funny. Even though somewhat different it's not dissimilar to the feeling I've had drawing quick portraits of strangers who've asked me.

Kim Ayres said...

Mapstew - Photos are now up on Facebook and Flickr, and when I've finished replying to the comments on this post, I'll be putting up Part 2 :)

Ron - I didn't get anyone refusing me or even expressing irritation at photographing them. But I couldn't ask strangers on the street

Emma - there's no doubt it was easier to do because it was in an environment where everyone was out to show off their body-art anyway, so no one seemed to take offence when I asked.

Alan - they'll be up shortly :)

DocStout - I just hope it's somewhere that isn't embarrassing...

Jayne - I did a mix of colour and black and white. Certainly for those who had single colour tattoo patterns, colour was unnecessary

Roschelle - are you going to put up photos of yours on your blog anytime soon? Having been to the convention, I'm now really curious about the art people will put permanently on their bodies.

Gillian - when I've finished these comments :)

Pat - fortunately everyone I spoke to had a good grasp of English :)

Guyana-Gyal - I'm afraid there's no sign of the Fatigue going away. Of course I only write when I have enough energy to do so, so that will skew the peception of me. A lot of people don't realise I have it, or the extent of it, as they only see me when I'm out and about - which is when I have a bit more energy - so they never see me when I'm at home, exhausted.

Aoife - it is a skill you get better at with practice. The biggest problem is sticking with it long enough to start improving and not giving up too early :)

Hope - it's a long time since I last wrote a post with tha cliff-hanger ending. Besides, the post would have been way too long if I didn't split it up :)

Lynne - when business is slow and clients are rare, I will practice on anyone I can get hold of :)

Carole - anticipation is the spice of life :)

Thenanne & Baron - by the time you read this, the next post will be up :)

Allen - I'd love you to do a sketch of me - we will have to meet up and do each other's portraits sometime :)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Maybe, one day it will go away, Kim.

Kim Ayres said...

Maybe it will, maybe it won't, maybe it will get worse - the problem is no one knows. However, I realised a couple of years ago that I had to stop putting my life on hold until I got better, so had to find ways of living with it.

Setting up the photography business was a part of that decision :)

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