Josh Foster captures the Leeds Tattoo Expo in a real and honest light

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Last month I visited the Leeds International Tattoo Expo with photographer Josh Foster. We’ve featured Josh’s work on the site previously and also in our recent tattoo zine. I was looking forward to seeing how he’d capture this annual event.

Josh is a Worcester-based photography student, in his final year at Birmingham City University. In my original blog I promised to share more of his work. Here we go…

For me, Josh’s analog photos capture people in the most natural, real and honest way. Nothing about these images is staged or pre-planned. In contrast to the highly-edited and posed tattoo photos that we see every day on our social feeds, Josh shows tattooed people in an un-glossy and and un-conceived way. Artists hard at work, blood-stained t-shirts – this is what tattoo conventions really look like, in all their beauty!

All of the below shots were taken at the Leeds International Tattoo Expo 2017, accompanied by a Q&A with the man himself.

Thank you for letting me share your unique work, Josh!

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So, you shoot your portraits in analog? Tell us a bit more about that.

Analog photography, popularly known as ‘film photography’, has taken a backseat for around a decade now since the advent of the digital camera, but I’m sure you have seen a resurgence in the last few years that film is making a comeback.

Film vs. digital is an unending dispute, I find. It’s echoed – not just in photography – but in the vinyl vs. CD argument also, so… I’ll try not to argue either side! I know that I enjoy my process and it appeals to the linear part of my brain – the process becomes more my own as I’m involved in each step of making the image and that is why I will primarily shoot on film.

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Would you say that you specialise in one area of photography – e.g. portraits?

At the moment, portraits definitely, but I’m aware that could change. I dabble in landscape photography too but I just really enjoy photographing people. I’ve felt it can be rewarding to see people’s reactions to how they look in my images. Viewers can form quick connections with portraiture and I strive to make work that people can have that relationship with.

What do you attempt to capture with a portrait and what are some of the challenges?

I’d like to describe my work as an honest representation of the subject I’m photographing. I avoid anything more than very light editing because I want the images to be true in nature. I hope that ‘honesty’ comes across.

There aren’t too many challenges I face that aren’t different from the norm. Mainly – blinking! If someone blinks it’s a real pain because of the cost per image.

Other than that, it just can be a long process to get a shot right. I shoot on a Pentax67 (a very big and heavy medium-format film camera) and I only have ten images per roll! So the pressure to get the right shot often leads me to take a while getting everything right which I’m sure frustrates my subjects sometimes.

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How did you find it photographing people in Leeds?

Very enjoyable. This was my first time at a tattoo convention in general, let alone photographing one, but I found the overall atmosphere very welcoming. It’s a fantastic eclectic mix of tattooists and customers.

It’s nice how receptive the tattooed community are to being photographed. People are proud of their tattoos and loved them being documented by me. I’ll certainly be visiting my conventions in the future – as a photographer or a customer.

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