In the fall of 1982, Sandi Fellman, a young American photographer visiting Japan, began the series of color portraits in this striking volume. Her subjects were the Irezumi, a secretive group of people drawn from the underworld of Tokyo and Osaka. To meet these men and women who had chosen to have themselves transformed through tattooing into living works of art was difficult; to gain their trust and to persuade them to bare themselves for an American woman and a huge Polaroid camera was an essay in cultural contradiction. But Sandi Fellman's unstinting effort has produced an extraordinary collection of photographs, which at once document a cultural phenomenon virtually unknown in the West (and in Japan as well) and reveal a tradition of artistry and dedication that knows no national boundaries.
We enter through Ms. Fellman's large-format
Polaroid prints into a strange and even frightening world where members of the Yakuza, the Japanese equivalent of the Mafia, spend hundreds of thousands of yen and hundreds of hours of pain and torment being tattooed. The range of the tattoo images is varied; examples reproduced here are drawn from Japanese mythology, Kabuki theater, and extend to the lexicon of the comic book and biker symbology. The works are executed by well-trained artists, men who have served an exacting apprenticeship with an acknowledged master, and who will eventually inherit his clientele and his working name. Fellman notes in her text the ways in which the tattooer plays "with combinations of belief, fact and fiction, transferring fleeting prayers into mortal permanence, disfiguring so as to adorn, and drawing equally from beauty and the grotesque."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR * .
Sandi Fellman was born • 1
and raised in the Midwest and presently lives and works in New York City. Her photographs, widely published over the past decade and exhibited throughout Europe and the United States, are to be found in numerous private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Center for Creative Photography, and Bibliothèque Nationale.
In addition to her reputa-^ tion as a fine art photographer, Sandi Fellman has an extensive commercial clientele. Her photographs have been used in many outstanding advertising campaigns and have been, reproduced hundreds of times in the pages of magazines and journals. Ms. Fellman also has been commissioned editorially by a wide variety of art and general interest magazines. She is represented by the Jayne H. Baum Gallery.
Printed in Hong Kong
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