Tattoos and Empowerment in Photography

Day 4: 104. Tattoo

“Cover the canvas at the first go, then work at it until you see nothing more to add.”- Camille Pissarro


What do we think of when we see this word? A creation or an abomination?

I have to be honest, I didn’t care much for tattoos until I had more friends that were committed to going under the needle. It was then that there was more intrigue enlisted from me. Some people put a lot of thought into the design of the tattoo, while others just like covering their entire body in intricate drawings and shapes. It could be the ideal way to preserve a memory or it could represent a difficult obstacle that they had to overcome in their lifetime. Today, we find tattoos as a mark of history, just as it was explained in this article, where they found a mummy well-preserved and covered in religious tattoos. As of yet, there is still more to determine about this discovery, but with infrared photography Anne Austin managed to capture all religious drawings all over her back, neck, and shoulders. Fascinating!

PHOTO: Stanford University archaeologist Anne Austin found intricately designed tattoos on the body of a 3,000-year-old woman from Ancient Egypt.

“Stanford University archaeologist Anne Austin found intricately designed tattoos on the body of a 3,000-year-old woman from Ancient Egypt.”- ABC News

A historical representation by the use of the body would be a sign of creation, as well as, an indication of the importance of culture. Tattoos in today’s generation represent a form of culture and being able to maintain the now. I always found capturing the now (as with the premise of photography) was a thing of the past and present. As seen on this mummy, someone wanted to preserve their religious sanctions permanently. The body is a canvas in this sense.

There’s also another obsession of being completely covered in pieces of art. As the aforementioned quote states how we cover a canvas to the point where we can’t add anymore, implementing tattoos is a reflection of the ideal of what is enough for a person. Is it one tattoo that will suffice? Maybe five that will cover all the bases? Or perhaps a head to toe demonstration and become a walking and talking canvas? With all of these thoughts in mind, I had a mission to complete for my photography challenge that I have neglected for a while.

As the title suggests, I photographed magnificent tattoos on this wonderful lady. After having a session with Nikki, I had a new found appreciation for tattoos. Simply stunning designs and placement.

Just one of the many tattoos I captured, and the rest can be seen on

Just one of the many tattoos I captured, and the rest can be seen on

I had a very creative idea for this project where I just wanted my model to be surrounded with mirrors and just herself. I was inspired by the work by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair. Leibovitz took diverse women in different fields and showcased them in stances that executed strength or simplicity. The photograph of Serena Williams was the look I was going for: beauty and strength without a direct display of sexuality.

Photograph from Vanity Fair, by Annie Leibovitz. Showcasing women in diverse fields for the Pirelli calendar. (Serena Williams).

I felt as though I told a story with her tattoos through portraiture. Which got me thinking about the appeal and artistry behind tattoos. It does not always entail a direct correlation between meaning and necessity. Sometimes the design speaks for itself, and it speaks volumes of character.

This Challenge is completed:  104. Tattoo


ABC News

Vanity Fair




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