Tattoos – A photographic project by Lisa Beaney

May 30, 2017 ZEISS LENSPIRE Team

What drew me to photographing people with tattoos is the extreme reactions that you can get. Tattoos seem to be a bit like marmite; you either love them or hate them but we do judge people by them. What I wanted to do was to break down some of these barriers by telling the stories of the people who have tattoos and when ZEISS offered me the chance to test the new Batis 2.8/135 lens this seemed the perfect opportunity to expand on this on-going project.

After all, there are two things guaranteed with every tattoo – pain and a story.


Jane is a runner, she started running in her late forties and has gone on to run marathons and ultra-marathons. In addition to this she has trained as a running coach and regularly coaches other women even whilst undergoing chemotherapy.

© Lisa Beaney, Sony A7Rii with the ZEISS Batis 2.8/135

“My first marathon was in 2013 in the April and that was Brighton, I did Beachy Head in the October which is an absolute killer and then I did Portsmouth in the December. So, I’d done three and I thought three marathons, that’s a lot, I need a running tattoo. I looked at all the ones everyone else had and they all had like 26.2 or a little man running. Just well, everyone had got that so what do I think of when I think of running ?
I thought of the seafront because we run a lot there to train, because it is literally there and I thought of on the Brighton Marathon, when you reach a certain point which is the Peace Statue, you know you you’re nearly there. It is all downhill from there basically and then you would always say to people “I’ll meet you at the Peace Statue and we can go for a run” and on Christmas Day we would always meet at the Peace Statue and go for a run. So I wanted the Peace Statue.

That sums it up for me. Everything about running is in there because I just have to look at it and everything comes back to me about running on the seafront, running first thing in the morning, running when the sun is going down, running in the dark when you can only just see her. Running in the rain, in the fog, everything and I just, it just means running to me.
I was going to have one (another tattoo) in January on this leg but you’re not allowed to get tattoos while you are undergoing chemo which is a bit of a shame. I am thinking about having a tattoo on my head just in my hair line, when my hair grows back only I will know that it is there and I want the year but I don’t know what else yet, something about being a warrior, something about beating cancer….. but I don’t know what yet…. “



© Lisa Beaney, Sony A7Rii with the ZEISS Batis 2.8/135

“This one is probably the most meaningful. This is a memorial piece to my Dad who died in 2010 and the time is his birthday which is 26/02 and there are some of his ashes in the ink, symbolically ground up and mixed in with the ink so he is always with me. I have got Jens name and my son and daughters names through my middle.“

– Joe





Amanda  “I was 17 when I had my first tattoo… the first two I was 17… one I hate and will be getting rid of it, it just doesn’t look how it should look, it was a disaster. I have so many plans… I had a lot of self harming scars on both of my arms, I was covered in them from when I was going through a rough time and when I got past that and I was happy that they had healed over and I wasn’t going to do it any more, that’s when I wanted something colourful and lovely to cover my arms with. It looked horrendous, I just wanted something pretty and girly and nice just to make my arms all lovely again. I messed them up, that was just how I coped at the time but I wanted to make them better again.

“It is easy to judge people by what we see on the outside, there are many reasons that people have tattoos. Sometimes it is to remember things and sometimes to hide things…“

– Amanda

© Lisa Beaney, Sony A7Rii with the ZEISS Batis 2.8/135

Both of my arms were done by the same person. This whole arm is Alice in Wonderland because she is my favourite of kind of the Disney era and I think the art style was cool with the psychedelic colours and the craziness. The other arm is just a rain forest. this arm I had no influence on whatsoever which sounds ridiculous. I went to the artist who was a friend of mine, we went to school together, I went to him and originally it was going to be quite small. In my head it was going to be maybe the bottom part of my arm and maybe a little bit further up but I went to him and I just said I don’t really know what I want I just want something pretty and colourful and quite floral around here. The first thing he did was to write the word sleeve on my arm. He said “sleeve, you are going to have a sleeve” and I was like, yeah, ok, I’m fine with that.

I went back week on week and he made it up as he went along. In total it was about 40 hours of tattoo time over the space of about a year. This one was only 30-35 hours, by the time he did this one he had done a few more. The first one was his first ever sleeve. No matter what anyone says it does hurt.“


Technical details

All of these photos were taken on the Sony A7Rii camera with the ZEISS Batis 2.8/135 lens. The photos of Joe were lit using a Sony HVL-F60M speedlight off camera with a Lastolite Ezybox. The photos of Jane were lit using a single Elinchrom Quadra through a small softbox and the photos of Amanda were lit using a single Elinchrom FX400 head on very low power through a softbox.

The photos were all imported and the first stage of editing was done in Adobe Lightroom. I then used Photoshop for some very minor “tidy-up” work and then the black and white conversions were done in Nik Silver Efex using a custom “recipe” that I have developed for this project.



 About the Author

Together with her husband Lisa Beaney runs a Wedding Photography Business based in Steyning, UK. While she is an ambitioned wedding photographer her passion lays with photographing portrait as well as baby and newborn photography. Lisa received innumerable awards, including the Gold Awards in Contemporary Wedding Photography, Bridal Portraiture, Children’s Portraiture and Fine Art Photography.

“I started this project because of one of my close friends tattoos (Read Paul’s story on my blog) and the story behind them. Without knowing him it would be easy to jump to the wrong conclusion. Next time you meet someone with a tattoo ask them about it, I’m sure it will reveal an interesting story…”

Learn more about Lisa’s work: Homepage // Facebook // Vimeo

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