Ricki Hall at Nevs
Asher at AMCK
For London-based photographer Danny Baldwin, getting inked can be a powerful means of asserting autonomy and of defying the confines of others’ perceptions and assumptions. Where once the fashion community snubbed heavily tattooed bodies, Baldwin has witnessed recent deviations from the standard clean-shaven masculine ideal to one that embraces otherness and self-expression. Skin Deep, an exhibition of more than one hundred photographs of nude male models exposing their ink, is his ode to the intersections between two mainstream art forms—fashion and photography—with the art of the tattoo.
Baldwin has built a name for himself within the fashion industry not by toeing the line but by crossing it; he’s moved not by cookie-cutter aesthetics but by images with a little more bite. As tattoos have become more popular, he’s seen first-hand how the same models that were sent away from agencies years ago for having visible ink are now embraced by leading brands like Versace, Westwood, and Mugler. What was once almost by definition something for “outsiders” is now very much “in.”
The photographer, who has modeled and has tattoos himself, reached out to a diverse set of subjects, each with their own stories. The words, patterns, and figures they’ve etched onto their bodies each mean something different, and in conversation with Gay Times, Baldwin admits that he doesn’t breach their privacy by asking for the meanings behind the ink. Instead, he allows each model to bare as much or as little as he pleases, both physically and psychically. The thing about tattoos, he suggests, is that they can cut one of two ways: while they can reveal the vulnerabilities of their bearers, they also can shield and fortify their defenses.
It’s this tension, the push and pull between nakedness and concealment, that keeps Baldwin enamored with tattoos. Ultimately, Skin Deep isn’t just about tattoos; it’s about individuality, identity, and what we choose to show to other people. The inside flesh of his own lip now bears the words “Skin Deep” in honor of the work, though you’d never know it unless you asked.
Thus far, Skin Deep has been entirely funded by the photographer and his team. In order to have the exhibition ready by January 2016, they need our help. They’ve opened a Kickstarter campaign offering a variety of perks to donors; contribute here. Some of the photographs are still under lock and key, to be revealed only as part of the exhibition.
Baldwin’s Skin Deep team includes videographer Mike Tucknott, hairstylist Kevin Luchmun, makeup artist Katie Moore, hairstylist Danny Defreitas, and makeup artist Violet Zeng.
Bud and Aiden at Body London
Diego Barrueco at Established
Jacopo at ADAM Models NYC
Jake Hold at AMCK
Jonathan Bellini at D1
Will at First Model Management
Jordan Matheson at Elite
Matthew Morris at BMA
Leebo at SUPA
All images © Danny Baldwin