BERNARD CLARK iNTERVIEW
Do you remember the first time you saw a tattoo, and what your reaction was?
The first tattoo I recall seeing was my Uncle’s who was in the Navy in WW11. It was the traditional anchor & snake. It ran from the shoulder to the bicep. It must have made an impact because years later when I started photography in high school I photographed him in a shirt that showed off the piece.
Do you have any tattoos yourself?
My first tattoo was hand tapped in Samoa by Keone Nunes, it was a tribal band above by bicep. I then had Cory Ferguson do a much larger tribal piece, which runs from my shoulder to my elbow. It has many Polynesian designs.
As a photographer, do you approach shooting a model with body art any differently than a model without tattoos?
The only different thing I do when photographing a tattooed model that is different from a non-tattooed model is trying to emphasize the ink. The goal is still to produce a portrait with impact or capture a beautiful image.
Any tips for other photographers, for working with models who have tattoos?
The biggest problem when shooting tattoos is dealing with very a fresh piece. The skin is irritated and red, the artist has usually rubbed on a cream which adds shine and the model is still dealing with some pain. If possible wait a day or two.
Are tattoos and body modifications a problem in other work that you do?
Lighting tattoos can be tricky. Many times a direct flash can cause a burn on the tattoo. I always like to have my light come from an angle, either from a side or above.
Do you ever have to shoot around tattoos or use cover-up make-up?
Tattoos and body modification have never been a problem in other work that I do.
Do you ever Photoshop out tattoos?
I have never had to use cover-up on a tattoo for photography and I don’t photo shop out tattoos.
What is it about a particular tattoo or a model with tattoos that you find interesting?
I think today people are very careful in what tattoos they choose to put on their bodies, in most case beautiful models with have equally beautiful ink that adds to the impact of their look. I really like shooting models with strong chest pieces or beautiful sleeves. It’s more difficult when the work is on their legs or lower torso, because for me it’s still creating a dynamic portrait that is my goal. I love it too when a girl has a very retro look and has old school pieces that compliment her style.
Have you ever seen a tattoo, or a person with tattoos and said, "I have to shoot that!"?
I often see tattooed people and say to myself I would love to shoot that person. Fortunately in my business my association with Skin & Ink magazine adds to my credibility so I can approach total strangers and often get a positive response.
As a photographer and visual artist, what defines a good tattoo in your eyes?
The thing that makes me very lucky is I get to work with the best of the best. I get to shoot the most amazing tattoo artwork in the world, from full body Japanese body suits to intricate black & gray portraits of Bob Tyrrell. I recently had the pleasure of shooting for half a day at JoJo Ackermann’s American Made Studio in California, check out the amazing large Japanese style back pieces in the November 2009 issue of Skin & Ink. That’s why I love shooting in the tattoo industry.
What design and aesthetic qualities are you looking for?
A strong tattoo is like any good art, you want to see good composition, drawing skills and a strong sense of negative space & color. The additional requirement that a tattoo artist must have is placing the piece in an appropriate space on the body and in the proper scale. I hate seeing a beautiful piece that is too small or large for the location it has on the body.
What would be your advice to someone who wants a great photo that shows their body art to its best advantage?
If someone wants a great photo that shows off their tattoos they should approach professional photographers and look at their portfolios. Everyone has their own style and this will be evident when looking at their portfolios or website. You are looking for someone who knows how to use real or artificial light and who knows how to compose a photo and make the subject look comfortable.
What is the biggest difference between shooting editorial work - say for someone like Bob Baxter at Skin & Ink - and working in a studio?
When I shoot for Bob Baxter & Skin & Ink we are usually in a convention or road trip setting. This means we have limited time and need to get a large quantity of exceptional images. We are also traveling so we can only bring limited equipment. When I shoot in my hometown or within driving distance of my home I usually have much more equipment and a full time assistant who sets-up lighting and deals with model releases etc. That being said I sometimes produce better work when I’m under extreme pressure to perform on the road.
Any tips for taking good photos at tattoo conventions?
The best tip I can give when taking photos at tattoo conventions is to be respectful of the artist and individual. Approach them calmly and ask permission to take photos. Also don’t take advantage of an artist’s good gesture. I have seen people just start blasting away while an artist is tattooing and then actually start invading the space and leaning up close with the lens inches from their arms or face. It’s just makes it more difficult for the next guy who wants to take a couple of shots
What do you think of the growing numbers of celebrities and models who have tattoos?
I think it’s great that tattoos are main stream and now many celebrities and models have tattoo art. Tattoos have gone from bike gangs & prisons to Universities and Corporate America. Great tattoo art is recognized for it’s value and artists make very good livings. They also have more opportunities to market their talents to record labels and advertising agencies.
What would be your dream tattoo photography assignment?
I have already done some dream assignments, New York, LA, Samoa and the list goes on. My work has been in books, magazines and art galleries. I would love to shoot a portfolio on MMA fighters and their ink. A Rolling Stone cover is a dream and if Vanity Fair called and said lets shoot the next Hollywood Issue on actors with ink I would be there in a heartbeat!
Want to find out what some of the tattoo designs & symbols
Check out: Rose Tattoos, Water Tattoos, Pin up Girl Tattoos, Water Tattoos, Butterfly Tattoos, Skull Tattoos, Rosary Tattoos, Chinese Character Tattoos, Wings Tattoos, Star Tattoos, Tribal Tattoos, Swallow Tattoos,