The Tattoo Reveal

Doing nude portraits reveal how many of my clients are adorned in hidden and not so hidden ink. For many, it’s the reason for the portrait.

Back in the 80’s when we started up, it was rare to find women with tattoos who were not dancers. Now the reverse seems to hold. It is fascinating to be watching the trend, although I am not sure why women are embracing it so strongly now.

I always like to ask about them. Is there a story, connection, or meaning behind the decorative ink, or was it a whim. For most the tattoo holds deep significance. For some it is a tableau of their life story, often it is very private.14-10-2014 blog

When Sherry came in for her session, as she removed her shirt she paused to explain how big this moment was for her. The shirt style tattoo covering her arms like sleeves along with the front and back held some of her darkest and most joyous moments. Only her husband and the artist had ever seen them. Even her family did not know they existed, she was always covered up. Some of the dark moments held family connections she did not want to explain.

When I photographed a leader of a biker gang’s back for the tattoo artist, he stated not to get the belt with its designs in the photograph or he would have to kill me. As I positioned the camera for the best detail the artist leaned over to say, “Really, don’t get the belt in the shot.”

It’s pretty easy to spot the youthful tattoo choices, the ones that were trendy at the time, unicorns, butterflies and paw prints. One client was explaining her very large flower tattoo on her breast. She had asked the artist to do a cover up a much smaller bad tattoo. He had tripled the size of the replacement, which while not her plan, she grew to love. Lisa, a client who came back many, many times had a tattoo in her cleavage that was all blurred. She had gotten it when she was 16, for courage and to help with the pain, she had drank a bit. On her way home, she fell into a creek and the colors ran. In each shoot we had her wear a necklace with a large opal that covered the tattoo, we taped it into place.144-10-2014 ml blog

Lara, a long time model muse of mine, only had one when we started years ago. It was a deeply personal one. Last week, I photographed her latest, a sleeve tattoo, an amazing intricate blend of images in full color. She had a transformed body. It was her canvas of statements, memories and whimsical expressions. She was looking at a very early photograph before the tattoos ranged across her. “It’s been so long, I had forgotten what I looked like without them.” she laughed.

Beth, a mother two wonderful daughters in their 20s was convinced to get her first tattoo on her 40th birthday. Her novel approach was to have a shoulder sleeve tattoo with a creative stack of her girls and her husband’s name, almost like a jacket shoulder patch. But only if each of them had the same, so it became a family tattoo, the centerpiece to the family portrait.

We do lots of body painting. For some it’s a painless way to have a temporary tattoo. One client, Kristina, was so taken with Lucie’s detailed art on her breast she plans to turn it into a tattoo. We have had several portraits turn into husband’s tattoos. One was kind of comical about how it came about.142-10-2014 ml blog

As we were doing the photography of Lucie, her husband was on the couch going through some reference books of tattoo choices.  He glanced up as I finished her pinup pose then yelled across the room, “that’s it, that is my tattoo!” We printed the image to size so the artist could work from it, and adjust it with a few embellishments to the art.

I have been so struck by the stories behind my client’s tattoos that we are planning to submit a story to some of the tattoo magazines, with images, to showcase their art.

We will be showcasing many of our client’s amazing tattoos this weekend, Oct 17th , 18 and 19th at the Alberta Bound Tattoo & Arts Festivals. (use this link: We would love to chat to you about your tattoo!145-10-2014

Posted by: Mark Laurie

World-renown photoartist Mark Laurie of Inner Spirit Photography specializes in Female Portraiture: nudes, boudoir, prenatal & fine art. His empowering images of women reveal their heart & soul.