Interview with Danny Portieous (June 2006
Tattoo Photo Contest Second Place)
Do you remember the first time you saw a tattoo,
and what your reaction was?
I actually don't remember "the first time", but I do remember the first time it affected me. Everyone one I knew had a few, but until I met a friend of mine Sara a few years back, I hadn't seen ANYTHING! She's serious. Full sleeve, lots of scarification, her back and legs all done. It was the first time I saw it as art, and a project that one is chipping away at. A uniform that you wear to tell others a story. It's so beautiful. I look at people's pieces a lot closer now. I think for the most part, it's very spiritual.
Do you have any tattoos yourself?
That's funny. I get asked that A LOT! I actually only have 2 small stars on both of my big toes. I'm a "go big, or go home" type of girl, with a bit of a fear of commitment. If I were to start, then it would be full sleeves, massive leg pieces, and my entire back done, and that's a whole lot of decision making for someone whose interests are constantly evolving! I am the only one, out of all my friends, that still has her original skin!
As a photographer, do you approach
shooting a model with body art any differently than a model without tattoos??
I don't actually shoot a lot of people who don't have some sort of modification done. Mostly because I don't know anyone sans body art! But yes, I do shoot them differently. The people with tattoos are always far more naked, and far more easy-going about getting naked. I don't know if it's because their art is like clothing, or if they are just more secure. I always thought that was very interesting.
Any tips for working with models who
Yes. Get them naked. Joookes...well, kinda. I think if a model has tattoos, they should be highlighted, and not hid. It completely changes the feeling of the photo, and gives more of a story to the model, who may otherwise just be a face or a body. It makes you think, "What are they about? What kind of life to they lead?" and questions are always good.
Are tattoos and body modifications a
problem in other work that you do? Do you ever have to shoot around tattoos or
use cover-up make-up?
I shoot for fun, so I haven't come across situation where I have to hide modifications... which is awesome. I do know how to cover them though, if I had to, and would use this great makeup I found which is actually made for heavily scarred people, or for people with serious birth marks. They used to only sell it at hospitals, and it was very expensive.
What is it about a particular tattoo
or model with tattoos that you find interesting? Have you ever seen a tattoo, or
a person with tattoos and said, "I have to shoot that!"?
I find it interesting because it's that person's diary. You can see what was going on in their lives at any particular time. They all tell a story, and that's incredible. I think it's very brave to put yourself out there for everyone to see. You state openly things you've been through, stuff you like, and what makes you, YOU. That takes a lot of security, and you often have to answer a lot of questions. I feel the rest of society is much more closed off, and chooses not to visually have convictions, possibly in fear of having to defend them.
One thing I had to shoot was Sara's scarification. I just think it's so beautiful because you give the body a jumping off point, and it grows the way it wants to, and you have no control after that. That, I believe, is true body "art".
What would be your advice to someone who wants a great photo that shows their body art to its best advantage?
I have a couple of lil' tips I have found that make for a good tattoo photo. First, if a tattoo is new, don't gloss it all up with cream before you take a picture. The flash reflects off of it, and you lose half of it in the glare. Second, don't be afraid to take a tight shot, but there is a bit of an art in it. Get it close enough to pick up detail, but not so close you can't figure out what the body part is. I think something is lost when the photo is just of the piece, and a few centimeters of flesh... unless of course it's for an artist's portfolio.
What is the biggest difference
between shooting editorial work - say for someone like Bob Baxter at Skin & Ink
- and working in a studio?
I think the biggest difference is a distracting background. You have to know how to shoot something in a way that the person you're photographing IS the main part of the composition... which is sometimes tricky, say in a shop atmosphere, or on the street. I think it's the fine art of highlighting what's important, and disinclining anything that is background noise that will only take away from the focal point. I find studio work to be a bit easier because the model is always the focal point, on a non distracting background.
Any tips for taking good photos at
Yes, same as above, a bit. Get the person somewhere that isn't battling the tattoos for attention. Also, try to get in as close as possible. It helps eliminate distractions.
What do you think of the growing numbers of celebrities and models who have tattoos?
I think it's just showing that tattoos are becoming a more mainstream, accepted, and accessible part of our culture. It's not just for bikers, and street kids. Perhaps things are making a full circle, and we too are becoming a part of a some un-named tribe, showing others our colours, and telling tales of our battles.
What would be your dream tattoo photography assignment?
I would LOOOOOVE to travel American in a beat-up truck, going from city to city, seeking out the town's "tattooed freak", and photographing them in a sleazy motel. Seriously. I have a knack for getting strange girls naked during our first meeting, to photograph them. Perhaps it's because I make them look really pretty! I just need someone to commission that project. Hey! You wanna commission that project?!
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