Tattoo Project – Paul’s Story

In Tattoo, Zeiss by a Comment

There are two things guaranteed with every tattoo you see. Pain and a story. It may be the particular reason that the person had their tattoos, or something a bit deeper. We are all moulded by our life events, when you look at a person you never know what their particular story is…… But if you take the time to talk and get to know people what you discover may surprise you.

In our society we still have many prejudices about tattoos and quite often we don’t ever venture past what we see on the outside to the person that is on the inside.

In this series of images I want to not only show you the person on the outside but tell you a bit about the person that I found within, in their own words….

The first person that I have photographed for this series is Paul….

Paul - Tattoo Project

Paul’s Story

“I was never afraid to a degree, but there were occasions when you are scared. You are a fool not to even think so but it all starts from the second the bells go down in the station and it’s shouted out what we are going to. The adrenaline kicks in and then there is the excitement of that adrenaline. You are sitting in the pump heading out to the job itself and you are psyched; then you have to get yourself in to the right mindset.

RTA’s, back then we called them RTA’s, road traffic accidents, it’s all changed now, it’s all PC and everything else but they were probably one of the worst because it’s not a given what you are going to. It could be a straightforward person is absolutely fine in the car, they just need cutting out, or it’s fatalities and the fatality ones……… I have one that’s a nightmare, even today I still have nightmares over it. It was a gentleman who took his children and drove himself off the road with the children in the car. Killed himself and the children, suicide note in the car, empty alcohol bottles in the front. That to me is just a total waste of life. If he’s done then he’s done, you don’t have to take the kids with you. It was just sheer bloody mindedness. So it was the RTA’s that really got you hyped up.

Fire, this is what you long for, this is where your real training comes in, this is what you joined for. The names in the tag, you just wanted to get to a fire and there aren’t many; not house fires or building fires but at the same time you don’t want that fire to have a fatality. You want to get in there, fight a fire and then just clean up, get out. We had many skip fires, things like that, car fires. The house fires are probably the ones, everything that you’ve trained for is there.

There are times…… I’ve had my nose hanging off with the bone showing, all my teeth, and that was from the one incident. The fire was up in the roof, it was a false ceiling. It was a bit of an abattoir fire and they had old metal shackle hooks and chains which were still connected up to the ceiling on wooden beams. The fire was up in the beamed area and as the fire took hold we had to work out the best way to go through the false ceiling because we knew the fire was in there.

We had crews on the outside going in through the roof, that would have created a back draft anyway, there are lots of bits and pieces with the job. Myself and Gordon had gone in as a working pair and we were coming through, one of the blocks had burnt through. The chains and everything else came flying down through the ceiling and, although my injuries were bad, it was just a glancing blow to me but it completely wiped out my face mask. Gordy just hurt his shoulder and broke his arm in three places because it had gone through me to him. It had gone through us both, it was a quick glancing blow.

We were both dragged out on our motion alarms. The motion alarm is, obviously, once you go down and stay down too long with no motion the alarm sets off and we were retrieved. That was a scary fire. It’s the unknown, you didn’t know where she was, you could hear her, you knew she was there, it wasn’t so much once you can see it you can deal with it… it’s the unknown… I didn’t know where it was, didn’t know what part of the ceiling because we were the first crew on scene. That was a hard one to take. It took me out for a while. ”

Tattoo Project

Tattoo Project

The Technical Bit

I’ve had a few people ask me how I took this image so I thought I would add a technical bit 🙂

This was taken on a Sony A7r2 camera with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 lens. The camera settings were ISO100 1/125 sec f5.6. For the lighting I used an Elinchrom Quadra with a small softbox on as low a power setting as I could get. This was off to my left and feathered across. This was the only light source for the image. Paul was sitting on the edge of his bed. I got the light “about right” and got Paul to sit in roughly the right pose…. We then started talking and I photographed Paul while he was talking to me. I wanted to capture the emotion that people show and this can’t be posed (unless you are a very good actor !).

The post processing was as follows :

  1. Images imported in to Lightroom and general levels checked. For this image I made no additional adjustments in Lightroom.
  2. From Lightroom I opened it in Photoshop and removed a light switch from the wall and a distracting part of pattern from the duvet cover.
  3. I then added a layer in Photoshop using Nik ColorEfex Tonal Contrast to bring out some of the details.
  4. The final layer was using Nik SilverEfex to create the Black and White version

In my head while I was shooting this was always going to be a black and white image so when I was processing it I knew the look I wanted 🙂

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