There were only 2 things my father really objected to – 2 things he absolutely wanted his kids to avoid – smoking and tattoos.
All three of us took up smoking, and both my brother and sister ended up with tattoos.
I thought about getting a tattoo at the same time my siblings did. A friend of my brother was wanting to start up as a tattooist and was looking for people to practice on for free. I began thinking about possible designs, but wasn’t particularly impressed with the artistic skill now permanently embedded on the upper arms of my brother and sister and I decided against it. If I was going to endure a huge amount of pain for an image I would be carrying with me for the rest of my life, then I’d want something a little more meaningful and professionally done.
And so the moment passed. A few years later I met my wife, 3 months after I had given up smoking, and she wasn’t particularly impressed by tattoos, so it was never given serious thought again.
Last year, invited by a guy I’d photographed singing in his punk band, I went up to Edinburgh for the Scottish Tattoo Convention. As a portrait photographer who loves faces, seeing all these people covered in piercings, tattoos and more than a few outlandish hairstyles, I felt like a kid in a cookie factory (click here for the blog post about it).
One of the things I came to realise afterwards, was there seems to be very little good tattoo photography about. There are millions of photos on the web, but most are very amateur. It seemed odd to me that people can pay hundreds of pounds, even thousands, for their tattoos, and yet the best photo they have of them was taken on a phone or a cheap camera in poor lighting.
In response to this revelation, this year I’ve taken out a stall at the Scottish Tattoo Convention (Sat March 31st & Sun April 1st) and will be setting up with camera, lights and a laptop. For a very reasonable rate (dirt cheap in fact, until I can work out what the market is likely to pay), I’ll take their photo, edit it right there and email it to them so they can put on Facebook, print it out for their wall or send it to their granny.
So for the past couple of weeks I’ve been honing my skills by taking photos of anyone I can grab with a tattoo and have been discovering it’s quite a different kind of photography to my usual black and white portraiture. Not only am I having to think much more about colour, it can also be a tricky thing to strike a balance between a person’s face and their tattoo - because that’s mostly what I want to do – take portraits of people with their tattoos rather than just the tattoos on their own.
I’m in the process of getting a banner printed up to hang above the stall to attract attention. Ami, with her brightly coloured hair, piercings and back piece that runs from her neck to her derriere was an ideal choice.
For a few more photos of the colourful Ami, check my Facebook or Flickr pages.
I’ll be taking my son, Rogan, along with me - partly for the company, and partly to help deal with waiting customers when I’m busy.
However, I’ll be letting all the tattoo artists know he’s only 16 years old, and he will not be allowed to enter the Win-a-Free-Tattoo competition...