It was great to be featured recently on Hasselblad TV!
It was great to be featured recently on Hasselblad TV!
The CoSM/Guy Aitchison event this past Saturday provided a great opportunity to have meaningful discussions with several ink artists about tattoos. Topics for discussion included:
But what really captured my attention was a discussion on the art being alive. Ink injected into a living canvas – human skin. The art is alive both in the emotional connections of the client and artist and physically alive as it undergoes change residing within the client/collector’s living tissue. There is something uniquely compelling about the art of tattooing. Indeed, art itself has a new branch that is currently under exploration in ways that resemble past artistic periods of discovery. But this time art extends beyond boundaries of the past. There is something new here.
Let me try and explain…
For me, what is extraordinarly compelling is the story, experience and emotional engagement that is so completely unique to tattooing. There is a beginning, middle and end. There is drama and pain. There is euphoria and accomplishment. The interaction between the artist and the canvas is complex beyond description. It is where art flows into life and in that process itself becomes alive. I am fascinated with the experience it presents and that it is experienced in a way that traditional art is not. We don’t occupy the same space with traditional imagery like we do with a tattoo. For these myriad of reasons, a photograph of a tattoo falls short. Severely short. By removing the space that a tattoo occupies, a traditional photograph removes all that is alive. The emotion vanishes and the story is obscured, flattened out of existence.
Tattoo art gives meaning and purpose to AMPED 3D photography. I am motivated to pursue its refinement so as to be able to capture and present the art of tattooing in a way that preserves the experience and essence of it at important moments of time. The depiction of space present in an AMPED 3D image breathes life into the viewing experience and facilitates the telling of the artistic story of the tattoo. It is a way for all that is amazing to be preserved and treasured for future experience and reflection. AMPED 3D imagery is a vehicle where the story can travel to the future to be expressed and re-experienced as it was when the image was captured.
To get what I’m talking about, you must see AMPED 3D tattoo imagery in person.
I’ll be in California beginning August – if your there, make it a point to find me so I can show you what I’m talking about!
Jared Newman/Time Magazine:
“The 3D Hype Bubble Is Now Completely Busted”
“just [having] this 3D stereoscopic effect isn’t going to keep people excited”
Samsung, the world’s largest TV maker, admits that
3D TV hasn’t lived up to the hype, and the company is now exalting web-connected smart TVs as its next big source of growth.
As long as 3D is presented as a novelty and the reason to watch it is to be surprised by stuff flying at you out of the screen, it will cycle in and out of popularity. I’ve been saying this since before Avatar and all of the 3D hoopla started. It is surprising to me that 3D is presented as a novelty in the first place, because that is really counter intuitive. We see things in 3D from the moment we wake in the morning until we go to bed. Nothing novel there. The only novel part is that we are used to looking at photographs and movies on a flat surface without depth. Seeing depth in this context is a novelty – for a short time – then if it doesn’t add anything of value, who cares? And it wanes.
Photographs and motion pictures are what I like to refer to as referential imagery. We look at it and interpret what we are seeing. We don’t look at it and try to experience it in a real way. Indeed, I believe recent research will demonstrate clearly that different parts of the brain process referential imagery in a different way from reality. I believe there is even a bias towards NOT wanting referential imagery presented in a “real” way. It can be distracting. Case in point: Eye tracking studies show dramatically increased eye movement when the same scene is depicted in 3D vs. 2D. Why should that be a surprise? There is an order of magnitude increase in visual information to interpret. Spatial information provides much more context and reasons to look at various things on a screen. It is instinctual to survey one’s surroundings to determine safety and opportunity. Our subconscious constantly does this. It is why when we see something out of the corner of our eye we instantly and automatically focus our attention towards it. It is a problem for motion pictures because the director wants to control what we are looking at. For referential imagery this is easy. Simply open up the lens and reduce the depth of field so everything is out of focus except for what you want the audience to look at. This is not a trick that transfers well to 3D. Blurry or not, there is a lot of information present in a 3D image that isn’t present in a 2D flat image.
So, does this mean 3D should go away? Absolutely NOT! What it means is that 3D has it’s place and when that place is only novelty, then it will cycle in and out of popularity. I think where it is forced into the context of referential imagery, then there will be a bias towards losing the depth. Where the purpose is to provide an immersion and experience and correct depiction of the subject matter, then 3D is absolutely the perfect choice.
Think about it. What made Avatar so compelling? It was the chance to experience a foreign world with aliens and see new things in the context of their environment. Much of the movie was experiential as compared to interpreting the reference of the images.
I think it also explains the success of animated 3D movies over live action. The 3D imagery provides immersion and puts the audience in an unfamiliar environment in a fun way.
Can live action 3D motion pictures be successful? Absolutely! But not when the storyline and purpose of the movie is to present referential imagery. There needs to be a compelling reason for the audience to desire to experience the space and be immersed in the experience. OR… the imagery depicted needs to be in 3D for proper interpretation and understanding.
It is true that for some people, the novelty of 3D never wears off. I fall into that category. But I now recognize that the majority of people will invest only so much time on a novelty before they are ready for something else. Fortunately, 3D has a lot more than novelty going for it. Unfortunately, most of the motion picture companies and TV manufacturers haven’t figured that out. All they continue to promote are things flying out of the screen and poking you in the eye (for the most part). There are exceptions. But they aren’t mainstream – yet.
Might I suggest a motion picture about tattooing? Anyone working on a screenplay?
I had the privilidge of meeting Guy Aitchison in Chicago at the Worldwide Tattoo Conference a few months ago and was immediately struck by his straightforward commonsense attitude about art and tattooing. He is about as far removed from the “diva – self important artist” as you can get and was not only willing to share his knowledge but eager to do so.
What makes this especially interesting is the fact that his works are world-class amazing. You may or may not appreciate his style and subject matter – but there is no question he is a master and his skills are incredibly impressive.
I am a relative newcomer as it relates to knowing anything about tattooing. But what I have learned over the past several months has amazed and inspired me in ways that I never expected. I had no idea of the mind blowing level of artistry that was possible to embed into the skin. The possibilities extend so far beyond what I imagined that it is almost impossible to describe. There is a new emergence of artistic achievement in our midst that equals the achievements of the Renaissance masters and manifests as a rebirth of ancient traditions in the same way. There are so many matching paradigms it is astonishing. The transition to the modern age. The artist/patron relationship. The development of new techniques and new artistic sensibilities. The incorporation of contemporary scientific knowledge. And on and on…
That there are great works residing just under the clothing of people walking around on the street is hard to wrap your head around. And in an age of technology, an amazing tattoo exists in its own space and must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. All photography falls short of the experience of seeing an amazing tattoo in person. But I can say with certainty that imagery that depicts space goes a long way towards simulating the experience in a compelling way. It is the sense of sharing the space with the collector of the tattoo and the intricacy and detail and struggle of the artist along with the tattoo collector that makes this artform uniquely special. Pain and sacrifice for beauty – that’s pretty amazing.
To answer the question posed in the title of this post, Guy Aitchison is a leader bringing the artform of tattooing out into the mainstream and helping to further the art in very important ways. He is sharing his understanding and passion. And the art is breaking out in ways that inspire and move people in ways that haven’t been in evidence for a long time.
Whether you have a tattoo or you don’t. You have to appreciate that the art of tattooing is something that is important and speaks to the soul. I saw a facebook post by local tattoo artist “Canman” a few days ago that linked to the following words: Earth without art is “eh”. I don’t know where that originated from, but it is so true. Guy Aitchison is one among many that is putting art back into Earth.
Seems like every week I see a tattoo that surprises me with its sense of space, beauty and story. To have a person reveal amazing artwork under their clothes is an experience that I value greatly. It is a privilidge to experience the artwork first hand and work to light, pose and capture the artwork for others to experience and enjoy.
After creating both 2D and AMPED 3D images, it is clear that the experience of seeing the tattoo in person simply does not happen with a traditional photograph. It is more than perceiving the space – you also get the ability to look around and see the story of the tattoo unfold.
I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing… Hello Nikon? What’s happening with scheduling a visit? I’d like to get my 36 cameras ;^)
This is one of my favorite quotes because it, very handily, catagorizes what I call the pet rock syndrome of 3D imagery. I tend to agree that 3D imagery that is presented as a gimmick is crap. To say that something is good solely on the basis that it can be perceived with depth is ridiculous.
Why do images need to be created with an illusion of depth?
That question rarely gets answered with a thoughtful response. For many months, I asked myself “What has to be in 3D?”. And upon reflection, the answer is “not much”. Portraits don’t have to be in 3D. We can infer depth from a traditional portrait very easily – whether a painting or sketch or photograph. Shadows and lighting depicted in a photograph can infer a sense of depth sufficient that a person looking at it doesn’t feel like the image is lacking. It is interesting how many 3D enthusiasts got that wrong, started a 3D portrait business and were surprised when very few people showed up as customers. Hello! Business rule #1 – identify the problem your customer has and how your product solves that problem. Having a 2D portrait isn’t that much of a problem for most people.
Do we really need to feel that the image we are looking at needs to occupy the same space we are in? The answer is “not usually”. If we did, would there be a bagillion 2D images on the internet? There are exceptions, and that is what I’ve been working on.
It became obvious to me, when I started looking at tattoos, that traditional photography was seriously lacking. Depicting a tattoo with traditional photography IS a problem. Shadows and lighting do not infer a correct sense of depth for images of tattoos. A referential image with only depth clues is very problematical with regards to depicting tattoos. Tattoo art is unique in that it is experienced in the real world within real world space. To flatten it, is to remove the essence of the art itself. What you are left with is an approximation, a reference that is missing context and the sense of space that it occupies. It wasn’t until I started creating duplicate 2D versions of 3D prints that I realized just how shocking that difference is. The 2D photograph looks lifeless and abstract as compared to the 3D image. But before I go on, I need to quantify that an AMPED 3D image is not just any old 3D image. Years of research and trial and error have shown me that getting a 3D image right is very complicated. Size matters. Lighting matters. Detail matters. Math and learning about how the brain fuses multiple perspectives into a single image with depth – matters. Get those things wrong, and a 3D image of a tattoo isn’t very impressive.
Indeed, it has been several months and I feel that I’ve only reached the baseline of what I need to know to make important AMPED 3D images of tattoos. Understanding the technical stuff, while difficult, was only part of the requirement. Understanding the story telling and artistry is even more difficult because it is not transferrable from traditional photography dogma and methods. When you employ immersion and space sharing you are entering completely different territory as compared with traditional referential photography. Traditional photography has no space and is removed from any sense of realness. That facilitates a much simpler set of rules.
What do I mean exactly?
Well, nobody ever gets confused whether or not a photograph or painting is an actual window or mirror reflecting real life. They know it is not a real mirror or real person standing in the photograph. A photograph is a photograph — simple. Today, it is possible to create an AMPED 3D image that calls “realness” into question. People poke it and look at the back and side, confused at where the space is coming from. An AMPED 3D image can emotionally engage in a completely different way from traditional imagery. This is a different experience that is not well understood. But as understanding grows, we will be able to effectively transition from gimmick “crap” to a completely new art form with amazing possibilities. There are glimmers of quality out there, but quality is the exception and not the rule. In my opinion, Hollywood’s obsession with gimmick 3D will impeede its true potential for some time. 3D TV will be even longer because there are simply too many short cuts and a lack of willingness to thoroughly do the work to understand the issues.
To sum it up, 3D is not going to replace traditional imagery. It can’t, precisely because of what makes it desirable in the first place: a sense of realness. A referential 2D image is easy to interpret because it doesn’t look “real”. Conversely, a 3D image will be easer to experience (which is different than interpretation) the more it matches what we perceive in reality. This isn’t a hard and fast rule as there will always be exceptions. But generally, there is a bias to instantly know what one is looking at so as to easily and quickly make a determination about it. Do we interpret the image or experience it as something real? That is the question to which our brain wants an immediate answer. This is a big problem with 3D imagery because we can’t instantly categorize it in the brain. We have to get past accepting the illusion which takes time. The key to that is the same for all imagery, and that is to present something that people will want to look at in the first place. Where the bias is to interpret that imagery in a referential way – traditional 2D imagery is going to always win out. Where the bias is to experience and share the space with the image – 3D imagery will be far more desirable (potentially). But the quality of the illusion is a rate limiting piece of the puzzle.
Trust me, it won’t take long for people to tire of seeing the gimmick of stuff flying out of the screen or something appearing to poke them in the eye. If something is going to be in 3D, then there needs to be a compelling reason for it to be in 3D. Where a sense of immersion and sharing space with the imagery is integral to the experience – 3D is a giant benefit. Where thought, inference and referential interpretation are important – people are going to prefer traditional flat imagery for the most part. I say “for the most part” because novelty does play a roll and in many cases novelty can be fun.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see future films featuring both 3D and traditional 2D within the same film. Also, the use of black and white and different types of color and lighting. The sophistication of the general public is growing. The scope of our experience is changing at a much faster rate and people are much more attuned to all sorts of image treatments, styles and levels of sophistication.
Ok, enough rambling… I’d love to hear other people weight in on this! Is novelty enough to drive 3D into the mainstream? Do people really want to see stuff flying at them out of the screen?
I am the recent proud owner of BLOODWORK:BODIES Vol. 1 and 2 A Global Exploration of Tattooing with concept and direction by Adrian Lee and photography by Max Dolberg.
First, I can’t recommend this work highly enough. It shows a level of passion and commitment that is atypical. These books are for artists and those that appreciate art. BLOODWORK:BODIES 360° is an added internet feature where you can rotate the images and see the tattoo imagery from various perspectives. Where so many publications show portraits of people with tattoos, these books and internet site, present the artwork of the tattoo as it presents on the body. There is no question that the presentation of the tattoo was the goal throughout the book.
The printing quality is far superior to what I expected, given the price. It is very very good with very few imperfections evident. Something not easy, printing with so much black coverage.
As a professional photographer, I could nit pick – but that would be ridiculous because the scope of the project is incredible and it would be grossly unfair to compare what Mr. Lee and team went through vs. a leisurely studio shoot.
I can tell you that the 119 bodysuits and back pieces by fifty-three of the world’s preeminent conteporary tattooers is astonishing. In our time, we do have DaVincis, Michaelangelos, Picassos and Rembrandts. If you want to see amazing contemporary art, this book would be a great place to start.
I am inspired to an even greater extent to seek out amazing works and photograph them with my AMPED 3D process. I am jeolous of the opportunity Mr. Lee had to see each of these tattoos in person. Not to mention his own incredible tattoo work at the beginning of the book. Indeed, many of the tattoo collectors are also tattoo artists, which isn’t really a surprise.
Finally, I have to say that large tattoo works on the body make much more sense than the tiny patches of tattoos that people get. A well thought out big work is unified and presents in a coherent, compelling and emotional way. Going large – that’s the way to go!
Thanks Adrian Lee, for the inspiration glimpse into some of the amazing works that are out there walking around that nobody gets to see!