What Messages Do You Send As a Photographer? / by Jason Joseph


Now after every shoot I try to make time to make a photo that showcases everyone who passed before my camera, of them with my tattooed arms. I'm not sure exactly what this series will entail, but I'm certain that it will always be fun. Here I am with inventor Lori Cheek from a recent shoot. One of my favorite so fare since I've begun doing this. 

I ask myself questions pertaining to everything I do in life, most especially regarding anything to do with all endeavors directly and indirectly related to making images. One of those questions I often ask hit me hardest as being answered so potentially inaccurately that It caused me to drive ink laden needles into my flesh for the first time in my life...

People often ask me two questions about my tattoos. One is..."whats the other arm say"...this often comes after they've tried to inconspicuously read both arms for several minutes and failed to do so successfully. Oddly it seems they always seem to catch whats on my right arm and not my left. Which I find interesting.... it's as if the big reveal is always GORGEOUS...which is super fun to see their reactions when I reveal it.
The second question and what led me to write this post is..."Why did you do that?" Which is almost always preceded or followed by"That's so cool."

I thought I'd explain why, here.. once and for all. I took a photo of someone who took a photo of me, taking a photo of them. And when I saw the image....it dawned on me...I've never really seen what it looks like from a subjects position, to be photographed by me. All they see is hair, and camera and arms. It's like I'm hidden behind all of these things. And my arms... they just look so prominent... Sticking out from this cacophony of black...clothes camera hair... and then these pasty white arms...

And it hit me, the only time someone even sees someones arms up like this....is when they are boxing, or protecting themselves from being struck in the face. WOW. Not a welcoming image. Not the message I want to send to someone who is poised before me as I make every effort for them to open up to me, and feel comfortable. Suddenly I felt like a narcissistic navel gazer, just staring at this image of myself...perplexed that this had never occurred to me. Bothered by the insensitivity, the guise of which  I'd mindlessly operated under for so long... And then almost as instantaneously as the question hit me..."Well, what message do  you want to send to people!?" I dragged this image of me and my bare arms into Photoshop, and I began to do some digital tattoo work.

The font selection took all but maybe ten minutes. I knew I wanted it large and bold and once settled upon I began to type You Are....
and then the second arm....that's where I paused. I tried: You Are.... Perfect. And I just giggled and removed it. Such a silly word 'perfect'. The next I believe I tried was beautiful...and I thought... it seemed not convincing enough, and slightly feminine.
And while gorgeous could also be construed as such, I felt that in my own experiences.. I'd perhaps heard a woman refer to a man as gorgeous, more often than I'd head one refer to a man as beautiful. And I began to think in Italian...and realized how one vowel  is what differentiates...and how words can serve both sexes with equal aplomb. That said.. I liked the bold appearance of the word. The G reminding me of my father George the Barber...who was loved by all whom he met. And more importantly... the word beauty... it's very definition was semantically ridden with things that didn't sit well with me, such as the word itself being relative to the eye of the beholder....while the word gorgeous held much more conviction. It's antonyms alone held it in such good company that it seemed sensible that it should be an easy choice. And truthfully it was. You Are ....Gorgeous was ready to take the place of the subliminal messages my arms were sending, once and for all ! 

This is my "This doesn't hurt nearly as bad as I thought It would...but are we almost done" face.

“Well, what message do you want to send to people!?”

Two weeks later when I managed to secure an appointment with my friend, Master Tattooist Mike Pastore owner of Masterpiece Tattoo in NYC my Photoshop comp came to life in a big way. Six hours in the chair and worth every minute, my arms now make people smile daily....and send a message that clears the air and makes way for people to let their guards down.
If it's not clear that you're in caring hands when someone with the words "You Are Gorgeous " points a camera at you...then I don't know when it would be. 

I've one more tattoo which is the Logo of my project Six Beats Of Separation .....and that is probably a fun little story for another time. Mike Laughed when I called him and declared a "tattoo emergency" I'll just leave it at that for now.
I've a few more tattoos planned... two exactly. And both are photography related. Maybe next time I can at least not have to do the shaving myself!
If you have some photography related tattoos or found some you like.. share them in the comments below. I'd love to see!