Photographers' Blog

Addicted to the needle

By Jason Reed and Larry Downing

The tattoo is as ancient as time itself.

Born out of man’s desire to draw more than straight, simple lines, today’s tattoos have evolved into beautiful interpretations by savvy artists that bend those old lines into colorful masterpieces etched onto a virgin canvas of skin with sharp needles and bright inks. Lifetimes of stories of hard love, or high adventures archived onto an arm, a leg, or for that matter, anywhere skin lives for curious eyes to enjoy forever.

The hobby of collecting tattoos has exploded into the mainstream. Look around and you’ll find them worn by anyone…. and anywhere. Annual conventions and competitions are held freely inside luxury hotels instead of hidden from view. Tattoos are even stars of their own reality television shows.

Reuters Senior photographers Jason Reed and Larry Downing traveled across the country recently to attend two different tattoo conventions in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and Cincinnati, Ohio, while working on a multimedia project entitled, “Addicted to the Needle” which opens a window into the private world and the culture of tattooing. First up was the Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival and then the National Tattoo Association’s 33rd annual convention. Both walked out of those gatherings realizing tattoos are no longer the stamp indicating someone to be a tramp, or a biker outlaw, but instead a lover of beautiful art and personal expression.

However, the freedom of expression comes with a steep price and should be considered before making that tattoo appointment. There’s no magic eraser…once in…all in….

When images don’t happen, make them happen

A combination photograph shows tattooed women posing for photographs during the 2010 Taiwan International Tattoo Convention in Taipei July 31, 2010. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Being a wire photographer, we often document things that are happening before our eyes. Sometimes these events happen so fast and we miss that one great picture or sometimes it may take 12 hours of waiting outside a courthouse to get that bread and butter shot to whet the appetite of newspaper clients.

The truth is that when wire photographers go out to shoot, we rarely have control over what happens during our assignments. We definitely cannot meddle with or control our subjects for the frame because that violates journalistic integrity.

Every now and then though, every news photographer wishes that the subject would do exactly what they have in mind for that particular shoot.