Tattoos in the Shifting Light of Tomorrow


As winter casts grey clouds over the landscapes of New England I am preparing my escape, packing my belongings into boxes, cutting the rigging of my safety nets, and falling into the arms of the universe. I have been selling and giving away much of what I own. Ebay, Craigslist and Freecycle have connected me to strangers in local and distant places, who now own what was once mine. Every day I feel a little lighter, and soon I will be taking a train south to New Orleans into an unknown future, following the whims of my heart. Down deep into the Lower Ninth, to help those who have lost more than I can imagine.

I have had a sweet little office in Northampton on the corner of Main and Masonic, above the Broadside Book Shop, for the last four years. It has been the hub of much of my social life, a place where friends come by and interrupt my work, which I never really mind so much. I am leaving it behind. Since the beginning of November it has been a mess of boxes and wires, packing supplies and camera equipment, toys from my childhood, books, chairs, and all sort of weird shit. About three days ago I finally organized the space into what was ready to be put into storage and what was left to find new homes for. And then I got a call from my friend Bobbie who wanted some photos of her tattoos.


I already had a backdrop set up to photograph things I wanted to get rid of and so when she came over I started photographing her, lighting her with my dedicated Nikon flash system. I was unhappy with the initial photos, my fears of studio lighting starting to grip me. Then I remembered my cheap studio lights, constant lighting that heats up the whole room. I took them from the pile of things I was going to sell and set them up, cutting the intensity of the main light with a diffuser. Suddenly everything was transformed, the light was beautiful, perfect for the session. Warm golden tones without any need to enhance them in Adobe Lightroom, just perfect and lovely.

Bobbie was fun to work with, very comfortable in her tattooed skin, playfully finding poses and following my contortionist directions. She wants the photos for some tattoo contest on, and promises to split the money with me if she wins. I am excited just to find this new inspiration, a different way of lighting to explore. I considered taking the lights down to New Orleans, but I can throw together a similar system for less than $100 once I get there so I probably won't. I am in love with the idea of simplicity, of living with less.


I think I will be photographing lots of tattooed people down south, illuminating them up with simple lighting. I don't fully understand why my heart is pulling me away from my comfortable community into the unknown. I have something to face, something to learn, some trial by fire to go through. I have premonitions and dreams that the world is going through some kind of transformation too. I think we all can feel it. It is etched into the skin of our beings. When properly lit we begin to remember our ancestors, our true purpose, our calling. Love has destroyed the city of my heart, a hurricane has torn down a mythical city, and to rebuild one I must rebuild the other, knowing that over and over they will be washed away again. Ahhh love... Anicca! Anicca!