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This weekend, while looking for something to do, I stumbled upon The Tattoo Project. The Tattoo Project was an exhibition of portraits by 12 Vancouver photographers, held over the weekend on Granville Island. The portraits were all of tattooed people, most of whom were quite heavily tattooed with some really good artwork. The photo shoot itself took place over 3 days, 100 models were used and by the time the exhibit came to an end on November 29th (it ran from November 26th-28th), a documentary film on the creation of The Tattoo Project, called coincidentally enough – The Tattoo Project – had been shot. In addition to the 12 Vancouver photographers who had their work on display, there were also a few pieces by Lyle Tuttle, a truly legendary tattooist who really needs no introduction.
While the exhibit itself was free of charge, there were calendars for sale which featured the work of the 12 featured photographers, the proceeds from which went to the Ray-Cam Community Centre in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.
As for the exhibit itself, well, despite being quite small, there really was some good looking photography on display. There were a variety of tattoo styles being represented here on the models, and this is where I had a bit of an issue with The Tattoo Project. Yes, I can understand that 100 models were used and that keeping track of every artist who tattooed them would be a difficult task, but I still think it would have been possible and far more interesting if the names of each model’s tattoo artist(s) had been listed beside each portrait. By not doing so, I felt that a whole section of contributing artists were being ignored. After all, it was called The Tattoo Project, wasn’t it?
Which brings me to my next (smallish) complaint: The Tattoo Project lacked a cohesive element, something that brought these models and their wonderful body art together for a purpose. While looking at the portraits I couldn’t help thinking Okay, so these are photos of tattooed people…and? What is the purpose of the exhibit? To be fair, I do understand that these people were photographed as the photographers saw them and in that sense, the public was being treated to the point of view of the photographers in relation to the models and their tattoos. Yet somehow, that wasn’t enough. It seemed to me that there was such a deep wealth of beautiful artwork present in The Tattoo Project’s small space and the full potential of it all simply wasn’t realised.
In the end however, I did enjoy the exhibit for what it was and I truly appreciated the variety of the tattoos, some of which like the East Van tattoo (above) truly speak to what living in Vancouver is like. With Vancouver’s rather heavily tattooed population, I would very much like to see more of this sort of thing on a somewhat regular basis – more exhibits with varying themes and interpretations would be a true delight. The majority of people I spotted strolling around inside the exhibit were tattooed as well – two of which had full facial tattoos – so I know that I’m certainly not the only one who wants to see more of Vancouver’s tattooed side.