Artist and photographer Alan Powdrill had a powerful vision in November 2015. He created a project called Covered, which opened at the Mother London on November 11th, 2015. He took photographs of people standing fully clothed, covering their tattoos, then juxtaposed them side by side with their tattoos fully visible. He said that his exhibit asked the question, "How do we judge people when we can't see their skin beneath?" He asks us to think about what we're hiding under our everyday clothes. On the opening day of the project, tattoo artists were on hand to give visitors free tattoos.
The people featured in the photos typically cover up their tattoos, but obviously from these shots, they were ready to bare it all. "Can't say what age I'll stop. While there's still space to fill, It'll get filled. I don't think my attitude will will ever change," says Michelle, 53, from Cleethorpes.
Each of the pictures was accompanied by a quote from the subject in the photograph. "I like the fact that I am middle aged, have a professional job but have No F***ing Way tattooed on my chest," said Bill, 59, from London. We like that fact, too Bill. We also think he has a few more tattoos than just that one.
When the subjects were covered, it was impossible to tell that they had any ink on their bodies at all. "I started in 1963 when I was 14, and I don't think I'll ever stop," said Dave, 66, from Leyton. That's a lot of years of tattoos. Keep on going, Dave, if you can keep finding room for more tattoos.
"What's the point of worry about the next 10-30 years. I might not be here by then so enjoy the now," said Gareth, 37, from Potters Bar. We'll bet in that next ten to thirty years his tattoo will be joined by a few others. You can even see the expressions on these people's faces change when they're showing off their tattoos.
Tattoos, for many people, play a large part in who they are. "If I ever forget who I am I take my clothes off and look in the mirror and find out who I am again," said Chris, 25, from Coventry. We hope he mostly forgets who he is when he's not in the middle of a field in public.
For Stefano, 33, from London, good things come to those who wait. "I love every inch of my skin but I love my back most because I've been waiting for 17 years to get it done, and it's exactly how I wanted it." From the beautiful designs, we can see why.
Some, like Patrick, 34, from Brighton, kept their tattoos a secret for a long time, because sometimes family members or others disapprove. "My first tattoo was at 13 and was a secret for 10 years. It's a part of me and I'm never going to get old," he said.
Many of the participants in the art project talked about what it would be like to get older, a topic often discussed when people might be considering the cons of getting a tattoo. "I love my tattoos. If you don't like them, don't look at them. who cares how I'll feel when I'm old," said Darren, 30, from Crawley. We think he'll still like his tattoos when he's old.
The project artistically revealed how truly different we look when we're trying to cover up our own skin, or cover up what makes us who we really are. "I love my tattoos, it's a way of life and a part of me. I'll carry on getting them for as long as I can," said Kenny, 27, from West Drayton.
It's not just anyone who has tattoo sleeves on their arms. It's a given that each tattoo tells a story, and that people are going to want to know what that story is. "I love being different and every day I'm asked about them. Good tattoos aren't cheap, cheap tattoos aren't good," said Izzy, 48, from Maidstone.
Tattoos are a lifestyle, and they can even become an addiction for some. "As long as I get to the toilet and piss on my own, I don't care what I'll look like when I'm older. I never intended to get this many, but I had an addictive personality," said Simon, 47. We bet if he had any more room, he might add some more tattoos to the canvas.
Many of the subjects who were photographed were in their thirties and up, but Lillianna, 23, from Hackney, was one of the younger participants, and also commented on how she might feel about the tattoos when she started to get older. "I don't feel my opinion will change on my tattoos. I doubt I'll have any regrets regardless of my age."
Many of the participants in the photography project were very young when they got their first tattoos. "I was 14 and my mum said that if I get another one she'd kick me out the house," said Simon, 45, from Clacton-on-Sea. We hope not, but judging by his tattoo collection, he may have been kicked out of the house.
"When I was 17 I thought I'd get as many tatts as possible to look bad ass but now I'm not bothered about looking cool," said Sean, 26, from Lincoln, of his attitude toward tattoos nine years ago. We think he still looks pretty cool, and like that he has almost as many tattoos as possible. The guy hanging out in the background of the first photo probably thinks so, too.