from the series: Drawn and Painted Body Art is a communication tool. Presented are group if images of individuals and couples who use their body as a canvas for both a personal marker, as well as a visual dialogue.
When did the tattoo become an icon of the American Culture? Once seen as a coming of age marker, as in the armed forces, a brotherhood, in American gangs and prisons, or the tramp stamp representing the rebellious attitude of urban youth, the tattoo no longer shocks or surprises. Body Art, with its long multicultural history is seen in many worlds. Tribal societies used markings to represent their history, marking events, patterns and ideals. In Asian cultures the symbology of the designs are reflective of a visual thought of something that is invisible. The chosen symbol has both empowering and protective properties, and these choices become reflective of the owner’s personality, as well as a personal family history. Photographing couples and individuals who have used their bodies as a canvas, I find myself looking, as well as listening to my subjects. With one eye in the lens, and my mind focused from a sociologist’s perspective, I aim for the beauty within the individual, as well as perceiving the choices, the ideology each person has made. The decision to maime one's body can be viewed as both a destructive act, as well as one that refocuses energy; a rebirth. The marking, and intertwining of the images throughout the body have a powerful significance, one that may be larger than personal identity. In the pursuit of body art, a significantly large "American Club" has been created. Statistical evaluation of this trend is informative: A National Geographic study reveals that 40 million Americans have a permanent drawing. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 36% of Americans aged 18 - 50 have at least one tattoo. It is interesting to follow iconographic imagery throughout history. Modern history shows us that the value relegated to the icon representative of a time is not necessarily perceived or understood during its own period. While photographing Indian tribes during the turn of the 19th Century, the photographer Edward Curtis notated that his female subjects insisted that their red colored blankets (their personal symbol of status) be included in the picture, and no explanation as to the properties of B&W film could dissuade them. The sophisticated elegance of the 1940’s was beautifully captured by the photographer Irving Penn, as his subjects leaned back, holding their elongated cigarettes, and, with their blasé expression they completed the slightly bored, soigné look, admired at that time. That cigarette brought into today’s values has a diametrically opposed interpretation. While moving around within this drawn and painted culture I have been given the ability to ask questions. I see the desire to possess a tattoo is now part of a larger, global dialogue, a conversation. Couples appear to have tattoos that speak their personal language, as seen in the image of 'Ray & Naomi: the hunter/hunted. Conversely in the image 'Opposites Together', a woman with arms of puppies and lollipops is being held, and loved by his dragons and snakes. The individual voice of the private loner who initially was to shy to remove his shirt reflects his take on life, in 'Nobody's Listening'. I continue to invest in creating images of people adorned with body art, while searching for their dialogue, represented in their tattoos. Photographing them in their space, with natural light, then simplifying the images by printing them in sepia toned B&W, allows the story to be told.
Fine Art Photographer and Educator working with themes which include the transience of life