Faithmarks Chapter 2 - Tattoos of Faith Event held in Chattanooga, TN
When people start talking about tattoos and faith, the conversations can get sordid pretty quickly in some circles. Last fall I was approached by Anna Golladay and Carl Greene of St. Marks United Methodist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Back in 2013 they held the first Faithmarks exhibit, which served to get people talking about faith and tattoos and the stories of their faith that led to the tattoos.
Anna and Carl were looking to do a "Chapter Two" event and were interested in me doing the photography for this project. I was extremely stoked to be able to do this as I've always enjoyed shooting projects to challenge ideals, such as when I did the "Equality Series" back in 2013.
We set aside four Sundays to do the sessions, which eventually became five, over this past winter. It was such a unique experience for me personally. Folks would come in and let me see their tattoo, what it was and location, and then would share with me their story while I was brainstorming where to shoot it and what kind of perspective to put on it. The stories were very touching and inspiring.
This weekend was a blur, as yesterday I had to get up at 4am to be at the church to see the canvas for the first time, as well as get to be a part of a great live interview with the Faithmarks team on WTVC Newschannel 9. I was nervous to see how my work flowed with the previous exhibit pieces and that was extremely important to me to keep them fluid with what was already done.
Last night we held the event and I was so pleased with the turnout. Fifty minutes into the event I was told we'd already had two hundred people come out. It was very inspiring to see people in my community come out and support this. I saw young children standing in front of my photographs just staring intently, while moments before they were running around playing. I saw elderly people looking at the photographs and reading the stories while wiping away tears. I had people thanking me for both how I shot these photos but bringing up past work that I did with the Equality Series. It was a very powerful experience for me.
Next up, the exhibit will still be at St. Marks on display for the next little bit, but then it'll be going back out on the road as a traveling art show. Last year it traveled across the country to different festivals and churches that wanted to use it as a talking point. This year, I'm not sure if it's been worked out logistically or not, but I know there were places overseas interested in bringing it over to show as well.
Some people don't think that tattoos and faith can mix. I'd challenge you to open up your mind, read the stories, get to know people for who they are on the inside and not what they look like on the outside. You might be pleasantly surprised not just by finding out their stories, but by the renewing of your spirit as well.
Check out Faithmarks online at www.ourfaithmarks.com
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