The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Scottish Tattoo Convention – Part 2

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

“Sure, no problem. What do you want me to do?”

And this was pretty much the reaction of everyone I asked. Not a single person said no.

It still took a while before I stopped getting a knot in my stomach before asking, but by the end of the day I was far more confident.

If I’m honest, one of the biggest problems for me was realising how difficult it was going to be to get a good photo of anyone. The simple fact is, when I take a photo of someone, I want to make him or her look cool or interesting.

Usually when I photograph someone, I spend time with them to establish a rapport and trust. I arrange the background so it’s uncluttered, and the lighting to help generate the mood I’m after. I take many shots, showing them as I go, so we can work together towards achieving an image we are both going to be really happy with.

At the Tattoo Convention, however, I could do none of these things. The backgrounds were busy from any direction; the lighting was very low and mostly coming from straight above, so cast dark shadows over the eyes; and I only had 30 seconds to a minute with them to try and get something worthwhile.

Because I handed a business card to nearly everyone I photographed, and told them if they contacted me I would send them a copy of the photo, it meant the challenge was immense.

I have spent most of the past week working on the best of the photos, making adjustments to compensate for the poor lighting and background conditions.

Finally I have a collection I’m ok about displaying. Below are a small handful. The rest can be found on my Flickr Account, or on my Facebook Photography page

As always, you can click on the images for larger versions

David - the very first person I asked to photograph

This guy was getting an eagle head tattooed on his neck

Laura had problems keeping a straight face

Originally from Borneo, this guy does traditional tattooing by hand - not an electrical appliance in sight. A much slower process and certainly not for faint hearted

Sakura's "horns" are silican implants. Despite appearances, she was a very warm and friendly person to chat to

Nonchalant expression. To look at her you might be forgiven for thinking she was being drawn on in felt pen rather than having a needle jabbed thousands of times into her thigh.

Rogan was amazed that no one seemed to be in any pain. Fortunately, Skid (the singer from Cash From Chaos who got us in) pointed out that no one wanted to let on they were in pain when they were being watched.

He said when he’s at a tattooist he’s usually uttering a constrant stream of loud swearing, unless someone else comes into the shop. Then he has to appear all nonchalant like he’s hardly noticing it’s going on – casually glancing over to the tattooist and saying, “Have you started yet?”

Do check out the Flickr Account, or Facebook Photography page to see the rest


emma said...

So many cool photos on your flickr account don't know where to begin!! I definitely recommend taking a look.

hope said...

Wow! I can see why you might've been hesitant to approach in some cases.

Curiosity getting the better of me: the man with the "face maze" done in B&W...was the tattoo also a simple black design?

You never cease to amaze with your photographic wonders. ;)

Sandy's witterings said...

I have to admit to finding tattoos a bit fascinating (not that I'm rushing out to get one). Some of them are definately works of art. (can't say I view implanted bit and piercings the same though they seem to wander along as part of the same scene)

The Commonty said...

David (in your first picture) used to have a daughter at the same nursery in Glasgow as me. Lovely guy - he came over for tea one night and one of those piercings in his chin fell out and onto his plate.Safe to say his was the only red mohican and pierced chin at the Montessori Nursery!
David - if you read this..big shout to you all (you'll be pleased to know that Marly is following the true path and has a portfolio of her nail designs)
Nice work Kim, BTW

TalesNTypos said...

Great photographs Kim. I really like them.

I had a tattoo once. Until I had it lasered off, which I must tell you was far more painful, and way way more expensive than getting the tat in the first place.


Ponita in Real Life said...

Excellent work, Kim. I think you have done a wonderful job! Really interesting composition... and all the tats really add an element of visual texture. :-)

Jayne said...

Excellent photos Kim & I have to admit the b&w ones come across as far more emotive than the ones of colour. I shall definitely make a turn at your flickr site :-)

Pat said...

Very interesting and puzzling. Why would people want to do that to themselves? And when does one stop?
With all your restrictions you still pulled it off with your usual aplomb. Stomach knots not withstanding

Kim Ayres said...

Emma - thank you :)

Hope - Yes, the tattoo was entirely blue-black. Because the lighting was poor, in most cases where ever the colour of the tattoo was irrelevant, I put the image into black and white

Sandy - I think the line crossed is body-modification. Once you are prepared to get a permanent mark on your body, it's then just a matter of degrees - how much of the body is covered, pierced or implanted

Matt - welcome to my ramblings. Now there's a coincidence that you know the first guy I photographed - I didn't know him. I've sent him an email of the image, but haven't heard back yet.

Adila - now that sounds like a tale worth telling - what was it, where was it, why did you have it, and why did you get rid of it?

Ponita - thank you :)

Jayne - once you remove colour from an image, the brain has to focus more on tone, shade and line. Additionally, black and white images were around for more than a hundred years before colour ones, so our cultural idea of art-photos is influenced by that

Pat - do you not have one - a butterfly on your shoulder, or a Chinese dragon on your thigh, perhaps?

As for where it stops, what became clear at the convention is for some people, it just doesn't. For some, I think it is only lack of money, or lack of remaining skin that will cause them to slow down.

Roschelle said...

amazing work and extraordinary subjects. the horned girl would have truly freaked me out. Whoa!

Falak said...

'Ouch!' is the only thing I have to say after seeing all those pics especially Sakura's. Loved Laura's picture though. Amazing photography as ususal :)

Anonymous said...

Don't want a tatoo...but your photographs are as usual incredible you might not have had your lighting equipment and been able to set a mood but hey the mood got set anyway. Awesome! Checked out your flickr!

Guyana-Gyal said...

YIKES. NEEDLES! I feel faint when I have to do any blood test.

You were brave, Kim.

I felt as though I'd entered a very strange world here.

Anonymous said...

Cool photos Kim. As I was reading what you said about the reactions to your requests to photograph them I thought, this is not surprising to me. I equate it to surprisingly pleasant bikers I know.
One day either your in California stop by or I'm in's a promise I'll do a portrait.

Pat said...

Not bloody likely!

Kim Ayres said...

Roschelle - she was lovely, and if she lived closer I'd take a lot more photos of her :)

Falak - thank you :)

Theanne & Baron - Not having the lighting and set up I would like has meant I've had to spend a lot more time in post-processing, darkening, blurring or removing backgrounds that were interfering with the important part of the image.

Guyana-Gyal - every world is strange when you are unfamiliar with it. I find your world - a place of perpetual warmth and sunshine - completely fascinating. And if the opportunity ever arises, I would love to photograph you and it :)

Allen - I look forward to that day :)

Pat - I can always add one on afterwards in photoshop :)

Ron said...

Excellent photos Kim. I couldn't tell that you took them under 'limited' circumstances. Your talent always comes across, regardless of any 'circumstances.' Piercings, that is something I don't get. Does anyone think they are attractive? Perhaps to intimidate? Get attention? I find them revolting. Oh well.

Mimi and Tilly said...

Silicon implant horns... Well I never.
Love the photos. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Ron - whatever you do then, don't look up the piercing known as a Prince Albert...

Emma - I think it's a more original use than the usual kind of silicon implants :)

Mary Witzl said...

Great photos, Kim. I'm not going to rush off and get this done myself, but Sakura's wee silicone horns and studs still make me smile.

Carole said...

Amazing artwork, those tatts. I am pretty sure I wouldn't be brave enough for the littleist bit of a butterfly, but I enjoy seeing what others do.

Kim Ayres said...

Mary - but if you were 20 years younger, you'd be tempted, right?

Carole - send me a photo of you revealing a bit of skin where you would have the tattoo (arm, shoulder, back etc) and I'll photoshop one on for you :)

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