Over the New Year weekend, I started my own impromptu Netflix marathon of TLC’s Miami Ink. I’ve watched the shows (Miami Ink, NY Ink, LA Ink) over the years sporadically, catching little bits here and there whenever my remote landed on TLC, but I never followed it too closely.
In case you’re not familiar with this reality series, it documents the daily goings-on at a popular tattoo parlour and its resident artists. The show’s been running for over five seasons now. I always found tattoo artists to be so interesting… modern rebels without causes… tortured souls living life on their terms. One of the aspects of the show that I find the most intriguing, however, are the stories of the clients, and why they’re getting whatever tattoo they’re getting. Unfortunately, the most compelling of the stories are also the saddest ones. Tattoos memorializing losing both your wife and kid in an accident, losing your best friend to cancer, honoring your father with a portrait of him on your chest… the reasons for people getting inked is countless and most of the times, depressing.
But one episode made me actually press “pause” and I frantically wrote down a quote. In a sort of roundabout way, it reminded me of why and how much I love my career as a photographer.
Chris Garver, one of the artists and a mainstay on the Miami show, said in one segment:
“I try not to get too emotionally involved with the clients of mine…
I really… I care about people and I’m sad to hear about any hardships that they might be going through but I try not to let it sink in or bum me out too much because I would be the most depressed person after work…
if I got too involved with everybody.”
I guess part of being a tattoo artist is being a therapist of sorts. Getting tattoos is a cathartic process for some. But even therapists need therapists. Maybe that’s why every tattoo artist has insane amounts of tattoos. They seek their therapy in their own way.
But I digress. As a tattoo artist, I’m sure they get to know their clients quite intimately. I mean, it’s basically just the tattooer and the client one on one for hours at a time. And it’s like that for me as a wedding and lifestyle photographer. I am privileged to be allowed into the private, intimate lives of others on essentially a one on one basis in the hour(s) we spend together.
But rather than hearing compelling stories of loss and heartache like the tattoo artist, I hear tales of love and memories people have shared that will last as long as my photos. I encounter classic love stories – childhood loves at long last tying the knot… to more contemporary fairy tales of meeting on match.com or eharmony. I ask parents of the bride and groom to tell me of their own wedding day. The stories are always unique.
Of course, being a single guy, it gets a little tough sometimes when the sap runs real thick, but that’s what beer and tequila is for. Not necessarily in that order. But I never grow tired learning of other people’s lives. Life is too short to hear everyone’s stories but the day is never too short to hear a story or two.
And it’s with that that I embark on this new journey of mine – Jase Kim Photography.
Ami James, owner of the Miami Ink shop says in the voiceover of the opening credits to Miami Ink Season 1: “This is my shot, and I’m taking it.”
Well, this is my shot. Take a look around, stare at some photos and walk with me in my new adventure.