Facial tattoos provoke a reaction -- reactions that span awe, fear, loathing, excitement ... Personally, I've seen such beautiful facial tattooing, particularly on people who are my friends, that I find them just as artful as any decoration on the body.
Capturing the beauty of this work is Mark Leaver's Facial Tattoo project.The third-year commercial photography student at Arts University Bournemouth in England was recently profiled in Huck Magazine. [The article is offline line at this time of this post.]
In his profile, he offered this on the project:
What makes facial tattoos so distinctive is that they are still confrontational, there's no hiding them. There are only a select few people who make that kind of commitment and it was those people that I wanted to meet and photograph.See more of Mark's work on his site and Facebook page.
Top photo of Xed LeHead tattooing Iestyn at Divine Canvas, and portrait of tattoo artist Touka Voodoo.
This weekend, I received a succession of excellent text messages: they began with a video of an Argentinian tattooer dancing in his underwear...followed by photos of that same tattooer creating a dotwork masterpiece on another talented artist and friend. These are the very reasons smart phones were created.
Nazareno Tubaro of Buenos Aires, in his signature stippling style, adorned the face of his Brazilian blackwork brethren, Garcia Leonam. The tattoos meld with existing work on the top of Garcia's head, then flow in beautiful symmetry down along his face and scalp. You can get a glimpse of the painstaking technique of building a bold composition out of small dots by this close-up below (before Naza tattooed the second line along the ear).
Naza and Garcia created a short video from their session, which you can find on Naza's Instagram. You can find Garcia on Instagram as well. You won't, however, find the half-naked dancing video online. Not yet.
Today, Shannon of BMEzine posted on Modblog the story behind the facial tattoo of Lesya, a beautiful young woman from Russia who radically altered her appearance by having her new lover tattoo his name across her face.
This naturally went viral -- just like the story of the girl with 56 stars tattooed on her face in 2009. Both of these women have something in common. Both were tattooed by the same man: Rouslan Toumaniantz.
Tattooing, in many forms, can elicit a reaction from a viewer, positive or negative, in different ways. Facial tattoos often attract the strongest of reactions. The reactions to Lesya's tattoo are the strongest of the strong, and naturally so, particularly in light of the back story, which Shannon offers in his post. Here's a bit from it:
About a month ago, Rouslan Toumaniantz, a well known and sometimes notorious Belgium-based tattoo artist (of Tattoo Box in Kortrijk), and Lesya, a designer living at the time in Saransk, a city in central Russia started talking via chat (Rouslan speaks fluent Russian) and realized they had a lot in common, and quickly began falling head over heels in love. About a week ago they met in person in Moscow and decided to get married -- their plans for their life together include her learning to tattoo (Rouslan tells me she's already a talented artist), apprenticing under her husband-to-be, while she also gets the full-body ink that she's always dreamed of (biomech is the current plan) -- and of course a family.Read more of the post and see additional photos here.
As you can see from the nude photo of Lesya and Rouslan on Modblog, the facial tattoo is the only major body modification she has. This has also fueled the controversy surrounding it.
So you have two camps: the cheers and the jeers.
Shannon notes interesting downfalls, including the association with gangs like MS-13, who have prominent facial tattoos that are often stylized in a similar way. However, he places the focus on their "commitment to love" and how "sometimes the best decisions are the ones you make in an instant with your heart rather than the ones long-debated in your mind." Indeed, there have been many times where I've fully agreed with this latter statement. There are many times that I haven't. Which is why this is heartbreaking to me.
I don't want to be in the jeers crowd. Here is a young woman who is in love and this is the way she has chosen to show her commitment. I cannot muster my usual snobbery. But I also cannot suppress feelings of anger towards this new love of hers, Rouslan, who in the most brazen of ways, marked this girl, forever changing her life. I wonder if he will shoulder the full responsibility of this for the longevity of the tattoo. To me, this seems more like marking one's property, rather than caring or nurturing your bride to be.
I often flippantly say the old maxim, "You get the tattoo you deserve." But this is not true all the time. Sometimes, there's got to be someone who educates and guides, who keeps impulses in check, and acts ethically. I believe that tattooists should largely shoulder this responsibility when it comes to clients, especially young ones. And I most firmly believe this when the tattooist has an intimate connection to the one being tattooed.
Lesya's photo has been popping up all over Facebook today. Some postings are of the point-and-laugh variety, others have touted it as "inspiring" and "the ultimate" in body modification.
To me, the ultimate in body modification is a commitment to the best form of expression of the best of who you are. It's a shame that her expression belongs to that of another person.
I commend Shannon for taking a positive approach to this work and seeing the beauty in it. And I stand with him in wishing that they realize their dreams and proving skeptics like myself wrong.
Vice.com -- who has brought us the wonderful "Tattoo Age" video series (but also does stuff like this) -- recently posted "I Had a Face Tattoo for a Week" in which Brad Casey sets out to learn if "people with face tattoos want to be treated like garbage" by walking around with his "mug decorated like a homeless anarchist who keeps a dog on a rope." Here are some of the highlights:
* Brad discusses the types of stares and vitriol tattooed people enjoy by strangers on the street ["You ruined your life"] as well as how often we're fetishized ["A couple of women in their late thirties fawned over me and one of them said, "It makes me wonder what kind of fucked up things must be going through your head."].
* He experienced the feel-up by drunk people. We all know that one.
* A guy came up to him and with a high five said: "Welcome. Your life is now theater."I think it's a great quote and made me think that the stares, comments, and touching can stem from the idea that, by being visibly tattooed especially with facial work, you become public property.
* His great conclusion: "the most difficult part of having a face tattoo is spending your day explaining your shitty life decision to every single person you meet."
While he drops some possible reasons why people would tattoo their faces, he can't really understand it -- and maybe that's because he engaged in the whole thing as a hipster experiment (and wow, Canadian hipsters seem just as ridiculous as those here in Brooklyn).
Reasons why people get tattooed are so individual and vast. Having a faux tattoo may inspire witty one-liners, but also inspires an unironic punch to the face.
Looks like The Hangover 2 continues to suffer some bad tattoo juju. First, the controversy surrounding who would play the small role of tattoo artist in the film. And now, the tattoo design itself.
Victor Whitmill, who did Mike Tyson's infamous facial tattoo in 2003, is suing Warner Bros. for copyright infringement in pirating his tattoo design "without attempting to contact [him], obtain his permission, or credit his creation"; he seeks damages and an injunction to stop the use of the tattoo in the film--which is essentially a big part of the movie. In The Hangover 2, a bachelor party once again leaves our wacky heroes with no clue of what happened the night before, except for a facial tattoo on the groom Stu (Ed Helms). There's also a monkey. See the trailer below.
Looks pretty funny but the legal claims are quite serious. [Download the complaint here.]
Tattoos. Copyright. The media is loving it. But in so many discussions of the case, there's a great deal of misinformation, so I'd like to break it down as best as I can.
First, when I wrote "The Tattoo Copyright Controversy for BMEzine in 2003, I approached it like a law school hypothetical; that is, I played with how intellectual property rules would apply in various potential disputes involving the ownership of a custom tattoo design. It was hypothetical because, at the time, no actual cases on record could be found specifically addressing this issue. Well, a lot has changed since 2003. Tattoo artists have sued companies for infringement and a number have received large settlements. Even collectors, like model & photographer Amina Munster [NSFW], have registered their tattoos with the US Copyright Office to discourage other collectors from copying.
The basics behind "The Tattoo Copyright Controversy still hold in addressing what exactly is copyright and its relation to tattoos. A couple of years later, I updated the article for Rankmytattoos.com and continued to post developments on my old Needled.com blog. So click these article links for more of a general discussion.
In this post, I'm going to break down the tattoo copyright issues in relation to Whitmill v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., (E.D. Missouri), what I'll call:
The Mike Tyson Tattoo Copyright Case 101...
This past weekend, the AFP reported on ancient tattoo practices having a contemporary appeal in Rob Bryan's article "Myanmar's tattooed women lure tourists."
In it, you'll read stories of the few remaining Chin women who bear the facial tattoos of their ancestors, a rite of passage and act of beautification for young women that is vanishing as the new generation of Chin have not see its aesthetic appeal. They are, however, seeing how it could prove lucrative. As Rob Bryan reports:
The article also discusses the ethical debate on "human zoos" -- exploitation or education/documentation?
When one of the Chin woman is asked how she feels about the tourists, she says that she welcomes those wishing to learn more about her and her heritage, adding "Sometimes I feel like my parents' spirits are coming back to me through the visitors."
I recommend a full read of the article.
For a related look at the traditional tattoos of that region, read Lars Krutak's article for the Vanishing Tattoo: "Tattoos of Indochina: Supernatural Mysteries of the Flesh."
My old tattoo and bod mod nerd friends, remember back in 2006 when Montreal's Rick "Rico" Genest was first profiled on BME's Modblog for his extensive facial work, transforming him into "Skullface" or "Zombie Boy"? Tattooist Frank from Derm FX Tattoo in Montreal submitted early photos to the site showing the progression of the skull tattoo, and Modblog posted updates over the years, like this 2007 one and this one in 2008. [
UPDATE: Here's the BME interview.
Anyway, old news right?
Well, this Montreal street punk is back in headlines as the new muse of Nicola Formichetti -- Lady Gaga's stylist (among other fashion pedigree). Formichetti is debuting his first collection for Thierry Mugler and Rico is the campaign poster boy.
On Wednesday, he walked the runway for Mugler during Paris Fashion week, and The NY Times said it was the only real highlight: "...the show itself was dramatic only in its use as a model of the totally tattooed Rick Genest, whose figure projected in a film, pearls glistening against the patterned flesh, was far more gripping than the clothes." [See photos here.]
Indeed, Mugler is milking the new model for "edge." When you first hit the designer's page, you'll see the video below of Rico striking poses -- even sexy, sexy pearl biting -- while a Gaga tune plays on.
A long way from the gutters of Montreal, Skullface has the last laugh at those who said he'd die penniless there.