1 minute read

Liz Vaz ARPS

ARPS Panel

ARPS Panel
Liz Vaz ARPS

Today one in three young adults has a tattoo and it has become a far more acceptable form of expression than when I was growing up in the 70s. I am intrigued by the resurgence of this ancient art and have explored it through attending tattoo conventions. I discovered a thriving industry, skilled artists and people who are immensely proud of their tattoos. Many had beautiful depictions of spiritual traditions, geometric patterns or animals, while others were focused on representing a personal narrative, often returning many times to add to their ‘collection’.

The tattooing process itself requires trust between the artist and customer for what is typically a session of several hours. Once a tattoo is complete there is pride, confidence, and ownership of the finished product. In my images, I showcase the journey from a virgin piece of skin to the final work of art.

Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS
Liz Vaz ARPS

I first went to a tattoo convention several years ago at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton. I had seen it advertised in a random internet search and thought it could be really interesting as a photo opportunity. I did not plan to go in as I felt intimidated by all the confident people with their amazing tattoos and cool accoutrements. Instead, I planned to surreptitiously take pictures as tattooed people stood in line to go into the venue or smoked and chatted outside. However, the thought of the interesting pictures to be had inside was too tempting, and so I went in.

At a tattoo convention, tattoo artists sell their services. Many customers already have tattoos but pay to have additional ones put on in sessions often lasting several hours. My biggest surprise was how professional the tattoos looked. Some really were impressive works of art.

I came home with some interesting images but there were many challenges for me, so the pictures were not good technically. There was little light, except spotlights for the tattoo artists, and no natural light. My widest aperture setting was f/4 which made things even more difficult. There was a lot of clutter around the tattoo artists such as posters advertising services and equipment which made the images look too busy. In addition, I was too hesitant and shy and stood too far back from the action to get many impactful images.

A few months later I attended another convention, since, on reflection, I felt I had rarely been to an event that provided so many compelling photo prospects. I loved the colour, the beauty in some of the designs and how welcoming the people were. I was hooked. I took a 20mm f/2.8 prime lens and several others. This time I got closer to the action, asking permission of course, and started getting some more satisfactory pictures. I attended a few more conventions over the next year or so and then decided to submit my Associate portfolio.

My first panel did not pass. One comment was there was repetition in the images and a second that more variety of depth of field would improve it. Printing quality in a couple of images was also mentioned. I was deflated as I had spent a lot of time editing the images, trying to make accurate selections, and otherwise trying to put together what I thought was an engaging panel.

After about a year, I had another go. I met with one of the members of Amersham Photo Society, Paul Mitchell FRPS, who provided invaluable guidance. I bought an f/1.7 prime lens with the aim of introducing images with more impactful depth of field. I attended another couple of conventions, focusing on looking out for some striking scenarios and compositions.

Once I felt I had the images I wanted, my approach to assembling the panel was much more natural. First time round, I had put close ups on the top row and the finished tattoo images on the bottom. This time I assembled the 15 in a set which looked good together rather than using any kind of systematic approach. I also spent less time editing the pictures because they were better in the first place. I did not eliminate the ugly backgrounds, but instead darkened them down, so there was much less post-processing work required. I was very particular with print quality and kept reprinting till I felt the pictures looked both good and consistent as a panel. The panel passed in February this year at the second attempt.