Steven Burton’s Kickstarter project Skin Deep: Looking Beyond the Tattoos explores the ways that tattoos are often stigmatized in society as well as the difficulty involved in getting your life back after being a gang member.
When I started Skin Deep I had a simple concept: take portraits of heavily tattooed ex-gang members and remove the tattoos using digital re-touching to create before and after portraits. Most of the homeboys/girls hadn’t seen themselves without tattoos for decades, so during the interviews, I presented the images. There was a deep emotional response by the subjects. They revealed very personal sometimes shocking details about the abuse, violence and drug addiction they had suffered for most of their lives. With help from the Homeboy Industries in downtown Los Angeles, they fought against the odds to find something better; hope.
Now, Burton has finished photographing his portraits, applying 400 hours of Photoshop work and conducting his interviews. Last month, he raised $26,541 on Kickstarter which will cover the costs of printing a high-quality hardcover book with a lithographic cover that collects all of this work.
The book is expected to be out via Powerhouse books in October of next year. Proceeds will benefit Homeboy Industries, a non-profit dedicated to providing tattoo removal services. You can follow Burton on Twitter to get further updates.
See some of the subject’s reactions in the videos above and below.