Skin Deep: Looking Beyond the Tattoos, by Steven Burton
For decades now tattoos have been potent symbols of the Los Angeles gang-life scene. The black and white tattoos with recognizable gang symbols appear on members' faces, necks and all over their bodies, making their gang affiliation immediately clear to whomever crosses their path.
Photographer Steven Burton set out to photograph realistic portraits of former gang members who are trying to escape the revolving door of death and prison.
For these men and women, the aftermath of gang life is not only carried within - it is also scrawled across their faces and bodies. Skin Deep uniquely highlights the impact tattoos have on the way a person is perceived by showing what each participant might look like without them.
Utilizing Photoshop, these men and women got a chance to see what they'd look like without the inked visual armour. After the bare images were presented to each, they were asked to talk about themselves and their families, what tattoos represent to them, and their aspirations for the future.
Skin Deep offers a chance to expose the realities these individuals face when trying to rebuild their lives and re-enter society. As importantly, for the public, the project provokes consideration regarding how society perceives and judges people with tattoos and violent pasts and seeks to garner empathy for those caught in the crosshairs of gang life as they try to change their futures.