Arts / Culture

The art of the unconventional: Photographer Jesse Lizotte speaks to RUSSH about his one-off show ‘Tattooed: It’s An Art’

Tattooed: it's an art

"A camera is like a mirror and a photograph can be a really honest depiction of a person".

The unconventional, a term spun out of context, used all too often to minimise an image of an obscure existence, but it's often misunderstood, denatured, stripped bare of its real meaning, which it is to be authentic in a direct moment of time, however and wherever that shows up. Being intuitive, allowing oneself to explore outside of what is known of understood. The art of the unconventional is something photographer Jesse Lizotte understands very well, and continues to explore in his work with an air of frank honesty.

Over March, the artist has partnered with The Galeries in a one-off exhibit, that unearths this concept, through the art form of tattooing. Exposing the inner world of the artists, their most intimate and unique approaches, delving into the most raw and esoteric spaces of the art form, transcending what has been the general conversation surrounding the subject. Leading the way on a new way to look at the world of tattooing.

We spoke with Jesse Lizotte about his current show and discuss tattoos, the artists, his penchant for nonconformity, and how the unique culture of his hometown, Sydney has informed this concept.


tattooed: it's an art

The show is curated to honour the art of the unconventional. What inspired the thought processes behind this concept?

I’ve had a fascination with the art of tattooing for a long time now, and I think it’s a theme that’s definitely present in my work and informed the subjects I gravitated towards over the years, whether that be the Yakuza in Tokyo or skateboarders in LA. It felt like an organic transition, coming home after covid and putting the spotlight on a group of local artists whose work is really unique to Sydney, my hometown. My intention with the series is to present tattooing in a different light. Although it can now be considered ‘mainstream’ I feel as an art form tattooing is still quite esoteric and divisive.

You’ve partnered with The Galeries to put on this exhibit. What about this space excited you in bringing this concept to life?

When I first heard the idea of placing the exhibition in The Galeries which is a pretty busy thoroughfare, I was excited at the prospect of people from all different walks of life interacting with the series - Young, old, businessmen and women, students etc. The installation is like a ‘gallery’ in the most democratic sense and it’s cool to see people engage with the exhibition and the works in a public space and get feedback in real time. I was also excited that the perimeters of the space allowed me to produce the works on a large scale. I feel like so much of the impact of an image is lost when we view them on our little phone screens, which is the way we have become accustomed to seeing images these days.

The show features the work of some truly authentic tattoo artists, including Demi Lacopetta, Shaun Daniel Allen and Pheazy. What about their work speaks to you?

I have known Shaun and Demi personally prior to this project through mutual friends. I had not met Pheazy before but I was familiar with his work through Instagram and by reputation. I felt it was important to portray a diverse group of artists both in their styles aesthetically and also influences. To me, these three really embody the Sydney tattoo scene in a contemporary way.

Tattooed: it's an art

A constant theme in your work seems to revolve around the raw, unfiltered human experience. What inspires or draws you to this type of photography?

A camera is like a mirror and a photograph can be a really honest depiction of a person. I think it’s the authenticity and vulnerability of the portrait that I’m most drawn to.

Speaking of uninhibited. What’s the furthest you’ve ever pushed the boundaries for a shot?

Personally, I don’t ever try to push someone else to a place where they are uncomfortable - instead, I like to just allow them the room to reveal their authentic self. I have pushed the boundaries within myself to get a shot for sure - in the beginning, it was terrifying for me to approach strangers on the street and ask to take their photographs. I’ve hung out in places for too long where I felt unsafe or dangled from the window of a fast moving car just to get the shot!

With that said, did you push the boundaries a lot growing up? Did it inform your work as an artist?

Yes - I could be best described as a non-conformist who had a problem with authority! School was not the best time of my life and I apologise to my parents, I hope I’ve made up for that now ha! That definitely had a part in the type of things I was drawn to with a camera, people on the fringes, the less understood and marginalised because that resonated with me.

Finally, being partial to a tattoo yourself, what are you looking forward to seeing more of?

For me personally now, the tattoo itself has become less important and it’s more about the experience and the moment for me. I remember the time and the place, where I was in my life when I got it, how I was feeling at that point in time. That will always transcend a fad or trend for me.

Tattooed: It's An Art will be on display at The Galeries until 31 March.

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