Praise to Individuality. London based Photographer Danny Baldwin presents his Skin Deep project.
Danny Baldwin is a photographer who is pushing forward the boundaries of his profession. The exhibition he is about to release is called Skin Deep. His eye captured what fashion seemed to dislike in the past: tattooed bodies.

There are many examples of models that didn't get the job for their inked skin. Danny noticed that in the past 10 years, something was slightly changing, that tattooed models were increasing in number and that some brands started to like what they previously refused. So he asked these young guys what pushed them to tattoo their bodies. The answer was that their "tattoos represent the ownership they have over their bodies". He had an inspiration, he knew he could do a great job by showing that models - people who are paid to become whoever the others want - finally chose to declare their individuality with pride.

Hello Danny, thank you for the time you're spending with us. There is a quote of Diane Arbus I'd love to start with: "I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them". Do you find any truth in it? And what is your idea of photography?
I think I agree with this to some extent yes. I think it is part of our hunger for photography to capture something, a moment, a time, a trend a movement and represent it in our way through our eye to the viewer in a way they have not necessarily seen before.
 
Do you remember the moment when you decided that photography was your path?
Yes I was actually working in an office job and I was getting frustrated with my life, I knew it wasn't my path. And after always focusing on creative paths - and then just feeling I didn't know the outcome or if it felt right for me - I decided to save up in my job and travel. I moved to Mexico and worked in an orphanage and spent a lot of time moving from place to place (I think this was due to excitement of such a beautiful place and also because I felt inspired). I felt I had time to think away from lives normal distractions - I never carried a phone for example - and I was stripped back to the basic things in life; I was able to spend a lot of time thinking about the direction I wanted to take. As my trip drew to a close I decided to look at a college prospectus, on-line, whilst still in Mexico. And I still don't know to this day why I was just drawn to the photography course, it felt like the only thing that appealed to me. I had no experience or knowledge and I was hungry to lean something new. Did I know it would work out? No! But I felt I was at a point in my life where I needed to jump of a cliff and take a risk and hopefully I would land on the other side.

I went back to England and I went for the interview for the college course and was told I had no experience and it's a very difficult industry. They told me they would be in touch. I waited and waited and I was told the course was fully subscribed and I hadn't got a place. I was just lost. I had no direction and didn't have any idea what to do next. The course started and on the first day in the afternoon I got a call to say someone had decided to change courses so there was a space available. That's where my journey began.

Your SKIN DEEP project is a focus on unconventional models, tattooed male ones. Tell us how all this came to life and what pushed you to realize this shooting?
I think in this industry we are always challenged to create something new, in a world where content is created and released to millions to view, the mass have a new hunger for a fast turn around. I was focusing on regular client work and felt although happy with the work produced. This was a mix of clients and my vision, and frustrated that I was always editing my work down in a way to just fit clients needs and expectations, I wanted to put something out there that was myself and my team's work (I can't do it alone after all) that said something. I really thought about lots of ideas that sounded great on first thought to me but then when I broke them down I thought: "Why would I do that, have I got the right to do that or am I educated or qualified enough in that to start discussing it through visual communication?"
That's where the project was born, I wanted to stay pure to me and something that was reliable to my everyday life, something I had knowledge over and felt I could say something about that the viewer would be able to see. It's very difficult to create something new in a modern society but I think this project has pulled together a lot of references in a new way to showcase something that has never been done before and to document this movement of the rise of the tattooed male model within a fashion context.
 
In SKIN DEEP there are only male models. What's the reason behind this choice?
I actually shoot more females than males in my everyday shooting life for client work and this is a common misconception I get regarding my work.
I guess this is because I put a lot of personal shoots out through social media and tend to photograph mainly men for this. I chose men for the project as i have built relationships with a lot of the subjects that fitted my brief for the project and felt it was truer to start with a more personal level so that I could really connect with the project.
Also, I wanted to say something about what is actually going on in the industry and personally I have noticed this rise of the tattooed male model through my working life and so I wanted to document this. There are some amazing image makers out there but for me I had become a little personally deflated by the generic male model stiff posed straight up poses and wanted to challenge myself to come up with interesting compositions of my subjects.
 
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You have tattoos yourself and you said – in an interview – that you let the guys free of showing the tattooed part of the body they were more comfortable with. If you were one of your models, what would you have shown to the eye of the camera?
Again I had to stay pure to the project and I would never allow a model that I work with to be in a position they didn't want to find themselves. I wouldn't ask a model to do something I wouldn't be prepared to do if the camera was turned around to me in that moment. I am comfortable with nudity and don't think it's important to look at the context the project is shot in but the bigger picture of what is looking to be achieved. 

I have tattooed from the inside of my lower lip and the way down to feet and toes and I would be comfortable showing any tattoo to the camera as they all have a huge personal affirmation attached to them (although they do have quite a macabre aesthetic) I don't think it would be fair of me to expect something from a model that I wasn't able to be comfortable with myself.
It is a lot about trust and if I wouldn't showcase my tattoos in that way why would I expect my subject to do so for me? There has to be an exchange of trust.

Inspiration is a very personal moment in every artist's life. It could be a place, or a scent, even a person sometimes. What leads you to the good idea?
For me I constantly find inspiration. I can find it through a song, through a visual, through a feeling or a moment or an exchange of a person. I think it comes to me in many different varieties. I think it is important to act on the moments that make you feel something, for me if it doesn't hit my gut then it's not a true inspiration.
I just know when I know it's a very personal thing and the process is never the same. I like it that way, it's unexpected and challenging and I think it's healthy to keep evolving in that way.

Social media, virality, technologies that are affordable to the mass: how do you see the future of photography?
I don't have the answer, I think it is amazing that so many people have access to so many mediums now. It's a positive thing, everybody should have the option to explore photography if it's available to them.
I like to think that photography is always developing through technology and that's exciting. Out of all the different mediums that have come and gone image is still here, never replaced and I believe it's here to stay.
 
What are your plans for the future after SKIN DEEP?
I'm so grateful for everything that has happened so far with Skin Deep. I have received messages and support from all around the world and the feedback has been positive. I have many ideas that I would like to explore with Skin Deep and I will update everyone with the details as they are confirmed. I wouldn't like to tell anyone about something I could not deliver. So you will have to stay tuned but behind closed doors. There is a lot going on that I can't wait to share when the time comes.
 
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