I often tell the story of how my mom doesn't like dogs so I didn't grow up with one - and so any time someone wants to incorporate the dog they love into their newborn session, I LOVE IT. This special family brought me their sweet Luna, who was also present and a participant at their newborn session. I just love how she is looking at the baby here. So sweet. Such a great look at the heart of a dog. She was so darling during the session - she was attentive, she listened, she sat quietly. Her life is clearly changing, but what a darling dog she is.
I love this one - so simple. But such a great reminder of what he was like when he was so small. All those little wrinkles, toes, furrowed brow, little bottom, baby fingers, wrists, rolls. Little wispy, baby hair and scrunchy lips. It's hard not to just watch a baby BE. Like, the amazingness and perfectness of this new life - hard not to be in awe of them. I'm such a fortunate person to have this experience weekly, if not more frequently, but it really doesn't take away from the awe-struck feeling. It's a privilege. Ok, digressing here... back to baby photos.
Frequently, I deal with the mom-to-be in the scheduling of the newborn sessions, and thus am just meeting him for the first time at the newborn session. It used to be that the new dad was just sort of there and not as excited as the moms about the newborn photos. But, more and more, the new dads excited about the photos, which I LOVE! They are also now coming with their own ideas to the planning table before the sessions, and I LOVE IT. We are incorporating their ideas, and it's so cool having them as creative partners. It was this way with this guy's dad - and, really, he's a brilliant creative mind in his own right, so it was actually super exciting to have him with whom to collaborate. Check out his shop, Art Machine Productions, in Fishtown.
I'm not sure if/how he saw my little desk, but he had such cool ideas for it! He wanted to incorporate his profession into the session, and brought his tattoo machines along, as well as the nubs of the pencils he uses to draw when he designs his tattoos. I was so inspired and wanted to make sure we were able to bring these into the session and bring Dad's ideas to life. I superdupercrazylove this one, where you see the pencils, the machine, and baby's beautiful face. Behind the scenes, we worked SO HARD to make this shot work - Dad was instrumental in getting this shot, and making sure it was done safely.
Oh, hi, Cheeks! <3 I love those little cheekies and his peeking-out little fingers. Plus, a baby in a little itty bitty hoodie wrap? Come on, even the Grinchiest out there has got to give a little squeal for this one.
Y'all, did you really think I was going to forget the mama? Like, I'd write all that glowy stuff about a dad and just leave the mom out? Oh, hells no. This is the person who grew this baby, who fretted, stretched, itched, craved, swelled, ached and ultimately labored to bring this boy into the world. It is not an easy task, becoming a mother. The birth pains we endure are both physical and emotional, as we grow and birth both a baby and a new self. Now, before I start to make myself cry, I will just say that this is the lovely mama.
I'm honored to have been able to capture these photos for you all.
I've had the pleasure of photographing the incredibly talented Myke Chambers for a while now - I've photographed him for a few magazine features about him in magazines like "Inked". Myke travels the world going to conventions and has worked in many shops around the country. So, it's pretty exciting that he has recently settled in Philadelphia and opened a tattoo shop of his own called Seven Swords Tattoo Company, where he has hired some of the most talented tattoo artists in the area. There was a feature being done on this amazing shop and I was lucky enough to be the one to shoot them for the magazine. I always love photographing Myke and it was an absolute treat to photograph all of these talented artists. Mostly because they had me laughing the whole time, but also because Philadelphia tattoo artists are among the most beautiful, interesting and fun subjects to shoot, and this group was no exception. They are gracious and kind, on top of being some of the best tattooers in the country. And, truly, these people are beautiful. I love how these photos look. Unfortunately, I didn't do any interviews with them so that you can get a look at who they are as people rather than just at their photos, because I love filling out the whole picture and giving you some examples of their work too. Should I do some interviews with these people?
You can often find Myke tattooing live here which is really interesting to watch.
I'm also including the links to their online portfolios so that you can check out their artwork. Many of them book a few months out so get in touch with them now to get on their schedules this year.
Jeff Madonna is a nerd. Not just a nerd, a super nerd. And proud of it. He’s hoping to school his young daughter, Marlee, in the way of the nerd as well. He and his wife, Erin, spend all of their free time doing lots of nerdy things with her. He was an Eagle Scout, so doing things like making sure she knows the names of the trees in Latin, for example. They’re working on her Iron Man costume for Comic Con in June, and she has a Firefly hat. So, they’re on their way. (Jeff had to explain Firefly to me, though. As a Nathan Fillion lover myself, I knew he was in it, but didn’t realize it was a space western.) Jeff is a comic guy, preferring aliens and cartoons in his down time, although he ranked Airwolf nearly as high as Transformers as the best tv show of his youth.
The first tattoo that Jeff ever did was a rose on his own leg. He was told that one should practice on themselves so that they’d know how it felt to be tattooed by them. He learned a lot from this tattoo, but the most important thing he learned was that the machine should never go silent. You’ll notice that Jeff doesn’t have a lot of tattoos on his hands, his neck, anywhere visible. He said that Carl would always tell him that you don’t want your hands tattooed in case you ever have to go in front of a judge. Jeff himself tells younger people who come to him that they should think about the kind of jobs they want to do before they tattoo their hands.
Jeff is a big history guy. Whether researching the Hot Stuff Devil comics of the 50s and pedal cars of that age or to ensure the correctness and authenticity for a client’s Viking sleeve, Jeff definitely pours himself into it one hundred percent. Some people collect Pez dispensers, but Jeff and his wife Erin collect books. Their living space in their home is lined with bookshelves, as they both love to read everything they can get their hands on. He has learned a lot about drawing but also a lot about the history of tattooing as well. It seems to me like he feels that that pays respect to those who went before him and that he feels that a tattooer should know the history.
We definitely talked a bunch of non-tattoo stuff too, from all of the cool ways he helps make stuff for his wife's classroom, to the time he spent as an armored car driver (ok, an armored Ford Escort driver, but let's not split hairs), religion, the educational system, our children and the movie Percy Johnson, Lightening Thief. He explained to me how ATMs work and how they get filled, which is more fascinating than I would have imagined. He's probably a really good guy to have around because he can take an ATM machine apart with a pen knife, so you never know when that could come in handy.
Jeff's a really nice and really smart guy. He's endearingly crazy about his wife, who he describes as his best buddy, and he told me about how lucky he was that she picked him to guard in a basketball game when she was a teeny little lady with dreads. The time went by quickly when we were chatting - I could imagine that a six hour tattoo wouldn't be so bad with Jeff's interesting stories to keep your mind occupied.
Jeff says he primarily does Japanese work and American traditional tattooing but with a twist, because he likes to do the color blending and also fine line work. He is starting to do a lot more geeky tattoos lately, like the 20-sided die he recently completed on a walk-in client. Scroll down to see more of Jeff’s work below, as well as photos of him in the area around his shop, Poppycock Tattoo in Wilmington, Delaware.
Tim Pangburn would have every reason to be cocky: a solid reputation not only for his jaw dropping new school tattoos but also as one of the best coverup guys in Philadelphia, a new, beautiful 2700-square foot studio for Art Machine Productions in Fishtown, and owning a tattoo shop with some of the most talented guys (and soon, girl, too!) in the area, but he’s not. In fact, when I asked him a question about the ‘tattoo empire’ he seems to be building, he said that he’s been humbled by it, an answer that I truly wasn’t expecting. But then, I didn’t know Tim Pangburn when I was thinking up the questions.
Tim tells a story that he’s heard from his mom many times that when he was three years old, he came to her, with a worried look on his face and said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do to make money when I grow up”. When he was a little older than this, he wanted to draw comic books; he had sketchbooks filled with his drawings. Art school wasn’t really in the cards for him, though. He figured it out when he was 19, apprenticing at a shop that told him that if he had the money to buy his own equipment, they’d have him. His mentor was fired, but they kept Tim on. During this apprenticeship, his father went back to school himself, making a huge career change and also becoming a Buddhist minister. Tim’s father is a huge influence in his life and is the first person he goes to when he needs advice.
According to Tim, he’s needed his dad’s advice a fair bit over the last few years, as he’s undergone some drastic personal changes: going through a divorce, building his business. He took on a lot, because he is someone who is incredibly goal oriented, setting the next goal and planning the next endeavor before he’s even finished the previous one. Although he felt as though his life was turned upside down, he came out of it positive; the eye-opening awakening and the feeling of a fog being lifted caused him to grow a lot. And, he’s someone who’s always put pressure on himself to grow, even at age three. So, the success now is sweet, because the journey broke his ideas of who and what he was, he had to swallow his pride in some ways to get where he was going, and it caused him to be a more accepting person. He’s zen about a lot of things now.
To hear him tell it, though, at least in his artwork, it’s natural for him to be zen. When I asked him about his process for his famous coverups, he explained that it isn’t really like the process that a tattooer normally goes through, the normal stages that take him from drawing, choosing color palette, and finally to the finished product. No, with a coverup, he says that he doesn’t always know what the outcome is going to be. Early on, the process was a bit of trial and error to see how he could get rid of the elements of the old tattoo, and that even today, he is still figuring it out and progressing. But since a coverup isn’t as linear as the tattoo process normally is, he just goes with it and sees where it will take him. Not surprisingly, he enjoys this.
When he isn’t working on coverups, the tattoos that he enjoys making are of an illustrated nature. The depth of field is determined by line weight, revealing those comic book roots a bit, and possibly giving a nod to who he cites as his two biggest drawing influences: Ren + Stimpy and Bill Plimpton. He’s very serious about his work, but he likes his work a little silly. He’s able to work in many styles, but there’s a definite style to his tattooing, in the color palette, the textures, the humor in the pieces. He's been told that it's easy to pick his work out as his by more than a few people who appreciate his style. He’s flattered to hear it even if it’s hard for him to accept such a heavy compliment.
it’s definitely no surpise that he likes to inject some humor into his artwork; this is a guy who loves to talk aliens, who thinks that the best tv character from the 80s is Liono from Thundercats with Mr. Belvedere being a close second, and who wrote a letter to the network when they cancelled I Married Dora. He's also a fairly pensive individual. So much so that I just got an email from him today, answering a question I asked him 2 days ago that he needed to ponder. The question was, "What is something that everyone should know about you?", and while I'd already finished writing this piece when I got his answer, I appreciated him mulling the question over, so, I wanted to add his response. He didn't say that he had the answer, mind you. He said, he thought he had the answer, which follows here: "The one thing people need to know about me is that I am exactly like everyone else. I spend my life pursuing happiness, just like everyone. Sometimes we can't always see people's motives and we can't understand their actions, but the human experience is a rich tapestry and no one has the ability to see through other's eyes. People should remember that before they make assumptions or pass judgements." So, when you go to get your next piece of artwork from Tim Pangburn, I'm sure you'll have a lot to talk about. I think he'd like that.
Tim can be reached at his studio, Art Machine Productions, 1345 Frankford Avenue, at 267.239.2724.You can check out more of his work at www.artmachinephilly.com.
I met Sue Garcia for coffee on a warm, sunny afternoon. She is a model-pretty, slight woman with ice blue eyes and a quiet voice. She was a trooper, walking through a big, pretty field that I spied despite her concern about spiders. Funny then that I was the one freaking out when a leaf grazed my neck, but Sue was stoic.
Although we met to discuss Sue's artistry and the path she took to get where she is today, the conversation started out with talk about our kids. Sue is an incredibly private person when it comes to her children, and as a mother, I respect that very much, so I will just say that her children are lucky to have a mother like her. She's the kind of mom who is incredibly respectful of who her children are becoming, trusts in them and who they are very much, and receives back for that effort two pretty amazing sounding children. It's just unfortunate that sometimes there are people out there who will judge based on their perceptions of what someone should be like and assume that a tattooed mom isn't a good one. How very wrong those people are.
Eventually Sue and I did get onto the topic of her work. Sue started out doing caricatures at a Local Kids' Theme Park. A company was recruiting from local high schools and taught her the way they wanted things done, and did those things she did. She worked there for a while, and impressed them so much that they enticed her to move to another park in another state.
However, when she got to said state, things did not exactly pan out the way that she was promised that they would, and she wound up with a roommate in the same situation, one who was starting on his own journey as a tattoo artist. He gave Sue her first tattoo, a Batman symbol on her mid-back. As he was getting into tattooing, going around to shops and looking for an apprenticeship, she went with him and her interest was piqued. She moved back to this area because she was not happy about the way things were going with regard to her work situation, but she took one thing away from that job: The assurance that she wanted to work in the field of art, in a hands on way.
When she returned, she heard about Amber, who was opening up a tattoo shop, who took Sue on as an apprentice. A series of events nearly prevented her from taking on the apprenticeship and worried her that it was a sign that she wasn't supposed to do this (including bounding out of bed on 9/11 and tearing her ankle), she and Amber have been working together for ten years now. They work really well together and have the kind of relationship where it's like having a second spouse.They've had artists and apprentices over the years in the shop, and today they have two additional tattoo artists in the shop as well as two apprentices. The shop is in an old mill with a fireplace and sounds like a pretty and inviting space. They've expanded into the second floor of the building as well. It's set back from the street and has privacy walls for clients to be tattooed to afford them a bit more privacy. It's set back from the street and showcases artwork as well as some antique pieces from Amber's personal collection.
Sue's style, both in her artwork on paper and in her tattooing, is definitely traditional, with bold colors, but with her own personal take on the art. She does a lot of painting and artwork in her studio, which she is currently creating for herself out of a need for more work space that is her own. She does sell her artwork and many of the pieces shown here are for sale. Sue feels that as an artist, she is constantly growing and learning, and often in her work tattooing something she was trying to achieve in her artwork will click and she'll see a way to do it with her painting as well.
You can find Sue at Blue Velvet Tattooing at 132 E. Maple Avenue in Langhorne. You can reach them at 215-752-0995. The shop is open from 1pm to 7pm, and you can contact them to find out about Sue's availability.