Hot Rod Tattooing Featured

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Sweet Chuck at work in his studio. Sweet Chuck at work in his studio.

San Juan Island is a very popular destination for weddings. Couples come all over the US to get married on this teeny tiny island in the Pacific Northwest. I spend an intense twelve hours shooting these people during their wedding day, and then more than likely I will never see them again. So it was pretty unusual for me to meet one of my clients weeks before their wedding, and even more unusual for me to meet them in their home town.

As luck would have it, I was working about forty-five minutes drive away from Sweet Chuck in Ohio. And a quick exchange of emails later had me planning to spend an afternoon at his tattoo studio, Hot Rod Tattoo and Piercing, in Martins Ferry.

I'm always looking to expand my portfolio and shoot subjects that interest and challenge me. Having never set foot in a tattoo studio before I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Societies' popularity with tattoos has demystified the culture a little; it seems that everyone has a tattoo these days, except me.

The first thing that struck me was the amazing cleanliness of Sweet Chuck's business. This is a man who takes great care when dealing with blood all day long. Talking to him about Hepatitis and other blood born pathogens would make anyone a germaphobe, regardless if you worked with blood or not. Secondly, the amazing decor of each room was in itself something amazing to photograph. The zombie/day of the dead/voodoo theme that recurs throughout the studio influenced my post-production work: I ended up de-saturating the photographs, bringing back the oranges/reds (there was a lot of red ink being used, plus of course the association with blood), and boosting the clarity/contrast to give this post-apocalyptic/zombie invasion feel. You probably won't believe me when I tell you the walls are mostly blue and yellow.

And then there was Chuck himself; here is a man who is larger than life, both in personality and presence. A tattoo artist for eighteen years, as well as a musician, and a non-religiously ordained minister, he has lived his life fully. To the uninitiated, who sees only a man covered in tattoos and can't think past their own prejudice, you are missing out on knowing an interesting character, hearing some great stories, and engaging in intelligent conversation.

Watching him work on a client, transforming this woman's ugly ankle tattoo (as Chuck described it "a heart with black sperm swimming around it'), into a beautiful heart surrounded by a delicate filigree pattern, was amazing. A true artist at work.

Everyone was more than friendly and I had a blast shooting there for the afternoon. As you can see from the results below I captured some great images. I'm pretty pleased, and can't wait to shoot Chuck and Sara's wedding back on the island next week.

John Sinclair

My name is John Sinclair and I am a professional photographer living and working in the San Juan Islands. I specialize in Wedding Photojournalism, Contemporary Portraiture, and Modern Commercial Photography. My business is called CONCEPIA located in the heart of Friday Harbor. This is not only a venue to exhibit my own work but it is also my studio workspace. I also offer a wide variety of photographic services such as large format printing, standard framing, scanning/archiving, restoration/retouching, and Photoshop services. In the summer months I teach a series of workshops aimed at all levels of photographers, and throughout the year offer individual tutoring.