The Tattoo Project: body. art. image.

About The Tattoo Project

The Tattoo Project: body. art. image. The brainchild of photographer Vince Hemingson, The Tattoo Project, featured works by 11 fine art photographers with a variety of styles who shot portraits of over 100 heavily tattooed individuals. The event, which included a Gallery Exhibition of select images, sequestered models and photographers in Vancouver’s Photo Workshop for a multiple-day shoot that produced thousands of portraits that aimed to explore who each of the subjects was through their ink and the photographic process. In addition to a documentary film, the project resulted in a volume, published by Schiffer Books that features more than 200 images from the event and truly reflects not only who the subjects are, but who the photographers are as well. The Gallery shows a sample of Hemingson’s work from the book. Click HERE to buy The Tattoo Project: body. art. image.

Hemingson’s Artist Statement for the Tattoo Project

“This project was an idea that I had simmering on the back burner for nearly fifteen years. I have always wanted to to see how fine art photographers would interpret individuals who were tattooed. When I first saw Albert Watson’s seminal work from the Louisiana Prisons in his book, CYCLOPS it was an idea that wouldn’t go away. In my writing and filmmaking, I have always thought that the purpose of training your pen or your camera on a subject was illumination. Literally to shine a light on something. In fifteen years of researching the history and social significance of tattooing – in dozens of different cultures around the world – I was struck by the extraordinary power that tattoos can have to reveal a person’s inner self. Rarely is the choice of a tattoo or a tattoo symbol an accident. People choose tattoos that resonate with their sense of perceived identity of a deep level. I was quoted in an interview nearly ten years ago, saying that, “Beauty is skin deep, but a tattoo goes all the way to the bone”. And by that I meant that a tattoo can have profound meaning, far beyond mere decoration for many people. A tattoo reveals character. I wanted my photographs to be portraits, but I also wanted them to be about illuminating identity. I can focus my camera on an individual and capture some aspect of the external self. But I think their tattoo illuminates an aspect of their internal self, often times far more than they realize. The idea that you could capture parts of both the external self and the inner self fascinates me. I wanted to exhibit my images as transparencies on light-boxes because I wanted the tattoos I photographed to be illuminated from within. If the body is a temple, then the tattoos are stain-glass windows. Tattoos tell stories. I want my images to record those stories.”