The Tattoo Project
In 1989, I completed my master’s degree thesis on the topic of portraits of people with tattoos. I needed to select a topic that made a social statement rather than continuing the career of making photos of landscapes, wildlife, and nature. A social statement topic had to be something that had a visual aspect and provided an uplifting morality that society is a better place because these photographs were made.
It took me about a year and a half trying to decide what my project would be before enrolling at Wayne State University. With great introspection, I finally decided upon a topic that I was passionate about: prejudice. Any topic I choose needs to meet the requirements of Wayne State University, but equally important, it needs to meet my requirements allowing me to remain faithful to my beliefs and morality yet still permit the creation of images that are designed to educate people about the evils of prejudice.
The Tattoo project is ongoing. I still seek people with tattoos, exotic body piercings, scarification or branding who are willing to be photographed and interviewed to have the possibility of being included in my coffee table book. I do not expect anyone to participate in my project without compensation. I provide participants with high resolution copies of the images burned on a DVD for their personal use.
I usually photograph the person against a plain black background so there is no distraction from the purity of the tattoo. The interview process boils down to asking the subject one fundamental question: “What are the circumstances that led to your decision to become tattooed, scarred, branded or pierced?” Their answers tend to be very articulate about the symbolism, relevance or meaning of the tattoo. It is this very fusion of photography with text that I hope to enlighten people that may not have a tattoo, that a person who may have one is not less of a person and is completely worthy of our respect and should be free from prejudice due to tattoos, branding, scarification or exotic body piercings.
If you are interested in participating in this project please feel free to contact me at (313) 804-9266 or send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.