Authenticity and Appropriation

I'm always interested in how authenticity and artifice work together, especially today, as postproduction techniques allow for looks that were never before possible. Not that I'm terribly interested in doing that, myself - I continue toward more perfectly finishing the photograph on the set, at shoot time. There's an immediacy and conclusiveness that's incredibly satisfying. In addition to that, with this project, I wanted to explore remixing, to explore the iterative transformative process. It can be a touchy subject with photographers, as the wide availability of easily duplicated material coupled with a muddying of intellectual property rights in the culture has created an environment rife with infringement. Thus, there's the two vectors - authenticity and appropriation, in contemporary culture.

I decided on tattoos. Tattooing has a powerful resonance in our culture, and still manages to retain some countercultural credibility. Some tattoos have become iconic themselves, so I picked some to work with, and then entered this loop:

It starts with a phenomenon, then becomes an idea.

The idea becomes a symbol, which people turn into an Illustration, and sometimes that gets used as Skin Art. I sketched my own version of a common tattoo, then turned that into a Sculpture.

I made a Photograph of the sculpture, and finally printed the photo as...

a Temporary Tattoo

Temporary Tattoo


For the objects themselves, I created them in space, utilizing "real" objects. All together at once, with the flames being the one exception. And when I say "real", I mean some of the objects actually are the things - a rattlesnake, a pig heart, a glass heart, a cat head. That's something I owe to the prop stylist, Courtney Walch, who is a genius. When I first described the project to her, very early on, she said, matter-of-factly, "…and some of the items should be real, like a real snake…", and that's the exact moment the project really gelled.

There's something about working with objects in place, especially with a crew at hand, that I prefer over pushing pixels around. Happy accidents and strokes of genius seem to occur more frequently, it's more joyful, and more instantly collaborative.

More on the individual images over the next several days.