Coming into my post-secondary education in graphic design, there were certainly a fair amount of skills that I had already developed and concepts that I was familiar with from my working experience over the last few years as a freelance designer. I’ve had a lot of time to hone techniques that I have found to be most useful and interesting in regard to my work in the past, but the downside is that my curiosity to experiment with other ideas outside of my usual toolbox often took a backseat when it came to finishing a project as efficiently as possible. Over time I’ve learned that too much comfort and familiarity can be dangerous; my first few months at design school have taught me many things, but perhaps the most important of all is that in order to continuously grow as an artist and an innovator, an embrace of the unknown and unfamiliar is mandatory.
For me, one of those completely untouched techniques has been photography. Before my program began, the only cameras I had ever picked up had been the streamlined point and shoot, and of course my iPhone. Sure, I could take an alright looking picture and find cool ways of applying them in my work once in a while, but when it came down to learning my way around a digital SLR and all the corresponding factors of lighting, aperture, framing and output that come with professional photography, I was completely out of my element.
I am not a photographer. I’m tall, awkward behind the lens, and still unsure of what half of the buttons on my Nikon are for. This level of unfamiliarity, however, has been important in helping me experiment and grow as a designer; it’s been a really fun learning curve wrapping my head around the process of taking photos, and it has left me with a skill that I may not be as confident in as others, but one that I’m able to develop further and use towards my work.
Made In Berlin
A Photo Series featuring the Artists of Berlin Tattoo
Part of my Photography I class this semester was to document a subject over the course of three months, and create a series of photographs as a final assessment for the class. I chose to focus on a subject that holds important meaning in my life, specifically one that I could involve other artists in that I respect and admire.
I have always been fascinated by the concept of a body filled with artwork. Designs that come together to tell bits of a story that is unique and meaningful enough to a person to be made permanent are a truly amazing thing. I got my first tattoo when I was 18, and have been continuously adding more for nearly a decade now. Almost all of my work has been done at the same shop by the same group of artists, and over the years I have come to know them as more than just their career title of tattooer. There is a passion behind the craft, and a fierce desire to progress as an artist that is apparent among the entire group. But most striking of all is the camaraderie they share and the humanistic environment of the shop; a brotherhood is inherently present in the artists and their families every time I visit.
My goal with this series is to lift the veil of intimidation and provide some insight into the daily life of Berlin Tattoo. These guys aren’t criminals or gang members or whatever other shitty connotations mainstream media has given people with tattoos in the past. They’re just dudes. Good guys with families, pets, car payments and life goals, just like everyone else. They just have cooler looking skin than most.
A huge thanks goes out to Dustin Barnhart, Dylan Derry, Ben Ryan, Cam Davis, Colin Higgins and Ben Fields for letting me be a big oversized fly on the wall over the past few months and take pictures of them as they work. I had a blast doing this project, and I’m fortunate to know such a great group of guys to document in my photo series.
Okay, enough of my rambling—here’s some pictures.