For many people, their skin is a canvas on which to display beautiful body art. Some folks are satisfied with one or two tattoos, but others keep going until entire areas of their body are camouflaged in colorful ink. British photographer Alan Powdrill documents these brazen bodies in COVERED, an homage to those willing to go to the tattooing extreme. His series features two images per person: one where they’re bundled head-to-toe, and another where they’re showing off their complex tapestry of tattoos.
The revealing photographs demonstrate the complexity of human identity. To these people, clothes symbolize just one part of their lives. Powdrill’s subjects wear suits, tailored jeans, and pressed shirts—they are business professionals, hardworking laborers, and responsible parents. Wearing these garments make us view them in a certain way, one that reflects a “civilized” demeanor. But when they’re undressed, if offers a different aspect of their lifestyle, and begs the question: do we change our attitude towards a person once we discover they’ve got a giant tiger across their back? Also, can any one image truly reflect the complexity of a human’s character?
Powdrill met COVERED‘s subjects at tattoo conferences and on social media. As word of the project spread, he found dozens of people eager to show off their work. All of the portraits were taken outside of the sitters’ homes, and Powdrill accompanies each portrait with a meaningful quote from them, about their tattoos.
Above: “My tattoos are part of who I am and I’ll always love my bodysuit now and when I’m 80. The love I get for what I look like is what it’s all about.” (Victoria, 37)
“I was 17. I hid the first few from my parents for many years and by the time they found out they knew this was going to be my life.” (Philip, 27)
“I was 51 when I started and my father was already dead and my mum didn’t say anything as she was in the early stages of dementia.” (Graham, 58)
“Me mum wasn’t happy at all about the swallow on my hand so I said ‘Look mum it’s not like I’m on the street doing heroin.” (Alex, 49)
“Can’t say what age I’ll stop. While there’s still space to fill, it’ll get filled. I don’t think my attitude will ever change.” (Michelle, 53)
“I was 14 and my mum said if I get another one she’d kick me out of the house.” (Simon, 45)
“They have given me confidence in life since my Crohn’s illness. I will love them in the future like I do now.” (Peter, 38)
“I’m beyond the stopping point now. It f****** hurts like s*** man but I wouldn’t change my look for the world.” (Unsal, 46)
“I started in 1963 when I was 14 and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.” (Dave, 66)
“I love the fact I’m middle aged, have a professional job, am surrounded by straight people and I have ‘No F****** Way’ tattooed on my chest.” (Bill, 59)