Christian Saint is an advertising, celebrity and fine art photographer from Brooklyn, whose work in one or more of those fields will be familiar to many people.
What I didn’t know, because I am not really an aficionado of tattoo photography, is that alongside his 20-plus years as a commercial photographer, Christian is also one of the leading lensmen in the tattoo field.
But I certainly know it now. From the moment I took Tattoo Super Models out of its packaging and saw the cover image, I knew I was in for a treat.
And sure enough, the 144 pages of this Goliath A5 hardback provide 144 reasons for being thankful that the genre has been blessed by a man of Saint’s talents.
Every image here oozes the kind of loving attention to detail and superb manipulation of light that the best photographers are paid to lavish when working for top commercial clients with massive advertising budgets.
But here, one imagines, the skills are being applied entirely for art’s sake.
Indeed, what distinguishes these images from typical tattoo photography I’m aware of is the unmistakable sense that each of these images is itself a work of art, as creative as the art inked onto the models’ skins.
The pictures in Tattoo Super Models are much more than just competent photographs of tattooed bodies; they are more like loving extensions of the inkwork, in which all elements and surfaces within the frame play equally important roles.
Saint’s style is elegant and painterly in the modern digital sense. One can detect influences in the composition and detail stretching back to the Pre-Raphaelites, as well as nods (and in one case a very direct homage) to more recent genres such as the pin-up work of Elvgren and Vargas.
The photographer is also fortunate, one would have to say, in being able to take his pick of the hottest women from the tattoo scene as his subjects.
You might think this unfairly elitist, a sign of someone who for some reason is not satisfied just with depicting beautiful body art, but demands that it be exhibited on the most beautiful bodies too.
But if that’s your aesthetic goal as an artist, and you’re fortunate enough to be able to restrict your model pool to only the most gorgeous women with the most gorgeous tattoos, then you’d be a fool not to, wouldn’t you?
If you have any interest at all in the art of tattoo (as many fetish folk certainly do), then Tattoo Super Models is a book that definitely belongs in your Christmas stocking.