So we’re finally here. I have decided on my selection and present them below. I approached this project form the perspective of photography as social commentary. Just to make things more complicated, because of course I cannot just do the simple, I added a layer on top of the overarching project title, which is to look at the issue of people and the environment through the lens of skin – hence animal, human, natural/synthetic.

Project brief:

“Present a series of at least 5 images (printed at least A4) in response to the title using chosen photographic techniques. 

This project is presenting you with the opportunity and challenge of the development of your technical skills when working with the camera as well as post production of your images. 

You should plan and produce photographic images in response to the theme of the project presenting the most effective outcomes. You should present the development of your idea, use of research into photographers or artists that looked at similar subject or techniques that you plan to use. You should consider health and safety issues during your work on the project.

During the work on the project you should demonstrate how you develop and incorporate lens-based image making and how to develop appropriate ideas and final solutions, using relevant technologies and techniques to produce outcomes.”


This initially led me to look at the work of Lewis Hine and the dissertation by Kathy Quick about his work. I also look at the work of Martin Parr and Nan Goldin, although on reviewing the blog I did not actually post any of that research (naughty me). I also came across the work Cedric Houin which again was special for the way in which light and/or the lack thereof was used to bring atmosphere to those pictures.

I also quite a bit of reading around tattoo ink ingredients in particular a recent EU report on the safety of tattoo ink and permanent makeup (details found in this post). This led to the discovery of heavy metals being used in tattoo ink such as iron oxide (rust) and mercury to name a few. For the rust I took pictures of Cor-Ten which is steel that is allowed to rust to provide a protective layer. The link here to the environment is the environment of the person. These inks contain these toxic substances and we have real idea how they may affect the body. We do know that tattoo ink can leach into the body and if that is the case, are we releasing carcinogens into our bodies as a result of art?

Another part of my research was also actually talking to some of my models. So for the tattoo group this revolved around why they got them and their significance. With my leather model, this was about the leather scene, the social preconceptions of men who dress in leather (and in this context we were only talking about men), how different “props” can enhance or highlight preconceived notions – e.g. handkerchiefs, riding crops, cigars. This could easily be hived off into a stand alone long term project which is something I am seriously considering. When talking to Al we ended up reviewing, to an extent the project pics already taken and were talking about different social preconceptions around the leather scene.

Ideas and photo shoots:

The animal and human angles were not difficult for me to translate from idea to shoot. I have a friend who is big into leather and who was willing to model a selection of his gear. I took a traditional studio based approach to this using a black background. Some might have said that black on black in this context does not work, but I am very happy with the results (at least on the screen). I like the fact that some detailing is lost in the background and so you only focus on what is sufficiently lit. It is coming back to the chiaroscuro lighting that I used in in part in my Level 2 Project: Shoes and Melamine.

I also had a good idea what I wanted to achieve with the tattoo element, which would be reliant upon both the strength of the pictures but also the accompanying text that would go with some of the pictures.

As you will see from the blog posts, it was the rubber element that was proving difficult to translate and at one point I was considering dropping it altogether. Thankfully, I decided against that and thought about tackling it from the angle of the environmental consequences of rubber production. Al, however, scuppered that when we did his photo shoot and I am grateful for him being such a playful character, as it opened my eyes to another approach – which was to look into the world, the personal environment of a man who likes to wear rubber after work. Those pictures are very different from the leather ones – which were studio based and are intended to make you think directly about the person in front of your. Al’s pictures are more about him in his environment, so they are in my view, more intimate, personal and humorous.

Of course I have not stuck to the number of images to be presented albeit that was a minimum and no maximum has was given… but I have culled them down from a much larger initial batch. For the physical presentation, I will “mount” my pictures onto a neoprene sheet (in keeping with the rubber theme). So I present to you below:

People and the environment

Skin: Animal (Leather), Human (Tattoo) and Natural/Synthetic (Rubber)

Animal (Leather)  

What do you see, when you look at me? Do you even see the real me? What environment do you think I occupy?


Human (Tattoo) – Portraits sans visages

Blank Canvas


Heavy metals [Cor-Ten and Mercury] – Tattoo ink ingredients




The Manaia (in my piece are my grandparents, spiritual guardians traditionally believed to be the messenger between the earthly world of mortals and the domain of the spirits, and its symbol is used as a guardian against evil. So in my Ta Moko they guard in all directions. 

Taratarekae – is representative of my physical health and well being. This is the symbol with jagged teeth. 

The Punga Were Were Spiders Web – (the three sharp symbols at the top of my Ta Moko speak of 3 important traits I hold. Pono meaning my

Truth, Tika meaning knowing right from wrong (the seat of my conscience. Finally Aroha meaning the love I have for myself and those I love in my life. 

Nihotaniwha- strength of body is the “Celtic” circle at the head of my shoulder. The strength of my body

Mango Pore – Further down the arm the head of the Hammerhead shark. “Mango Pore” this speaks of my determination, my willingness to traverse adversity. 

Throughout my Ta Moko you can see Unaurahi (Fish Scales) representing my travels over oceans. 

The smaller symbols on the inner arm are representative of those who I hold very close to me.


Michael and Patrick


Natural/Synthetic (Rubber)

An evening with Al and his rubber

Assignment criteria: 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5