Sevenoaks is an old market town in Kent, in its centre, a small cobbled square is home to Life Family Tattoo, a tiny little shop with 3 artists. One of these artists is an old friend of mine. Lewis has a great talent as an artist and over the past couple of years has dedicated his time to the art of tattooing.
In my constant search to find new and interesting subjects to photograph, I asked Lewis if I could pop in to the shop and document his work. As it turned out, the shop is having a revamp in the coming months, so a series of photo sessions could be mutually beneficial.
With a few days off over Christmas, it seamed like the perfect time to pop in to the shop, have a play around and see what worked.
Firstly, I have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable few hours taking photos I’ve had. The environment is visually stimulating, the shop is full of drawings, paintings and books on every conceivable kind of art and tattoo’s.
The artists are intensely dedicated to what they do, I would find it hard to believe you will find a tattoo artist that wakes up in the morning thinking ‘do I really have to go to work today’! They are chatty, interesting and excited about the next piece of art they will be rendering on to their next patron.
The few customers I met in my brief visit were all very different, from a young girl having a line of latin on her side to a 40 something gentleman extending his extensive collection of tattoos right down to his wrist. One thing they had in common was complete and utter trust in Lewis’ ability to create what they wanted. Whether they knew in their own head what they wanted, or were happy having their ideas interpreted and crafted by Lewis.
Now back to the photographs. To be honest I’ve done no documentary photography before. I was going with a completely open mind. The aim of this visit was to see what would work. How I would move around the little shop? What light was available? How would Lewis and the customers feel about having a camera pointed on them constantly clicking away? Being tattooed can be intensely personal, and the artist requires one hundred percent concentration. Mistakes cannot even be contemplated. What angles would get good shots? Will I need any other kit?
And it worked, my first visit has answered a whole bunch of questions. So my next visit should be even more fruitful. The question is what did I learn? I need more light, I had to push my ISO up to 1000 to keep my shutter fast. This lead to a lot of noise. I don’t mind it in the black and white shots though. I could do with a macro lens to get really close to the action. Talking and getting to know the customers and artists helped them to be more comfortable with my presence.
All in all I am happy with a lot of my images. But I can see better in my head. Have a look at what I shot. Let me know what you think.
I hope you liked my images, you can see more on my Flickr photostream
Visit the Life Family Tattoo website