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AssignmentPhotographer Mark Perrott began making portraits of tattooed subjects in 1979, a lifework that started in a small shop in Pittsburgh and expanded to tattoo parlors and conventions across the country for the next 40 years. The assignment: create a book that weaves together a selection of arresting portraits, from each decade, with the highly personal stories Perrott and contributors gathered from his subjects and tattoo artists, throughout his journey exploring the art form.
ApproachAn oversized square echoes the artist’s beloved 2 ¼ camera format and satisfies his desire to have the images come to life on the page. The 12 x 12 page reveals the power and intensity of these portraits—page after page, the reader locks eyes with unrelenting gazes before breaking the connection to study the ink. As Mark states, “for me, it’s never been about documenting the ink, it’s about the faces.” Portraits paired on a spread might have visual congruity, a similar pose perhaps, or an intangible common attitude. Color, inspired from tattoo inks, and restrained typography give structure to the book and add voice and visual vitality, but mainly they serve to pull the reader into the stories these subjects and artists shared with Perrott.
ResultsA richly-layered book that serves as witness to the art of tattoos, and the art of the portrait—both of which can express courage, pain, strength, defiance, affection, humor, and all the complicated contradictions of the soul.