Photo project

Getting Inks Done: Tattoo Wearers in Ralf Mitsch’s Project

Ralf Mitsch, 48

A German photographer, designer and art-director. Born in Jugenheim near Frankfurt, currently lives in Amsterdam. Studied industrial design in Saarbrucken Academy of Fine Arts. Has been interested in photography since the age of 12.

I don’t have a tattoo, but ever since I was a teenager I’ve been fascinated by tattoos – skulls, snakes and other designs – and the people who wear them. I asked myself “What do they do? What kind of life do they lead?”. As a teenager in the 80’s I badly wanted one, but for me, at that time, it was difficult to decide which image to put on my skin for a lifetime. When I lived for one year in San Francisco – this was in the early 90’s – I went to a lot of tattoo parlours to search for the right image – without luck.

Two and a half years ago I saw Holger, the man who is on the cover of my book – Why I Love Tattoos. When I saw him – some tattoos peeked out from under his shirt – my old fascination for tattoos surfaced again. Instead of running to the tattoo studio myself, I talked to him and we arranged a photo shoot. The photo series “Why I Love Tattoos” was born.

After I photographed Holger, the man on the cover, I photographed a friend who I had already shot several years ago because of her tattoos. Then I got in contact with a tattoo parlour around the corner from my studio. Also via friends and acquaintances. Later on I scouted most of my models via Facebook. There I could get a good impression which tattoos somebody has. After the first few images were done, most of the potential models liked the photographs immediately and were immediately convinced to take part. For some the nudity was an issue though – especially for women in their 40’s and 50’s.

Is it a religion, an addiction, a documentation of one’s life, or is it an impulsive decision, that will haunt the tattooed for the rest of his / her life?

I want to show the soul of the people and their tattoos. My concept is aimed to show the essence. Every person is shown pure – just itself – with a light background and balanced lighting. Almost documentary-like. The result is a clear and visual message. My quest doesn’t stop with portraying the permanent ink on the skins of their respective owners – I go under their skin to find out about the stories behind the Maori tribal design peeping out from under the collar, or the snakes that curl themselves around people’s arms and legs. Is it a religion, an addiction, a documentation of one’s life, or is it an impulsive decision, that will haunt the tattooed for the rest of his / her life? Why I Love Tattoos contains over 50 portraits of inspiring people, telling the stories behind their tattoos.

“Why I Love Tattoos” is my first comprehensive photo-series. It contains a lot of devotion for the subject. To round off my photo series, for me it was also very important to publish it in a book. The unconventional way of showing tattooed people generated a lot of international interest for the photographs. Six of the images became part of the exhibition “TATTOO” in the Museum of Art & Design in Hamburg – something I am very proud of.

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_01.jpg”, “text”: “Roberto, 23 – skipper. «When I was sixteen my dad died 
and I had these tears done»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_02.jpg”, “text”: “Marta, 28 – makeup artist and body piercer. «When I was fourteen my mother and I 
got tattoos together»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_03.jpg”, “text”: “Michel, 45 – market trader and tattoo shop floor manager. «I went to work
 in a tattoo shop and the floodgates opened»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_04.jpg”, “text”: “Maika, 37 – tattoo shop owner and body piercer. «Your eyes say 
a lot more about you than your skin does»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_05.jpg”, “text”: “Holger, 39 – gardener. «My life is

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_06.jpg”, “text”: “Stephanie, 23 – dancer and model. «To me, it feels like decorating a house»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_07.jpg”, “text”: “Bill, 64 – tattooist. «Back then there was something dangerous about tattoos — 
now your mum and your maths teacher have them»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_08.jpg”, “text”: “Desanka, 30 – tattooist. «On the beach
 I still turn heads, but not as much as I used to.»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_09.jpg”, “text”: “Tim, 36 – barber. «Getting a new tattoo is like a day out for me»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_10.jpg”, “text”: “Sylvie, 29 – occupational therapist in a psychiatric clinic. «I think it’s cool
 that you can change your body»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_11.jpg”, “text”: “Adrian, 28 – technical salesman. «It’s an honour 
to wear their work»”}

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ralf-Mitsch_12.jpg”, “text”: “Trudy, 53 – residential counsellor for young people. «They’ve become 
such a part of me that I’m not even aware
 of them anymore»”}

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