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steven burton digitally deletes the tattoos of ex-gang members

steven burton skin deep

photographer steven burton has developed a deeply personal, and profoundly poignant project that profiles former gang members, demonstrating two conflicting yet compelling visions of their identity. for the series ‘skin deep’, burton has meticulously, digitally removed gang tattoos from each subject’s face and body, liberating them from the judgement cast by society based on their unfamiliar, and therefore intimidatory appearance. for the ex-gang members profiled, burton’s resulting images were emotionally charged.

steven burton skin deep

burton’s interest in the transformation of the ex-gang members began with his introduction to homeboy industries — an organization that provides hope for previously gang-involved and incarcerated men and women, helping them positively redirect their lives and become contributing members of the community.

‘I was inspired by the homeboys/girls trying to change there lives against the odds,’ burton recalls. ‘the concept came to me when I watched the homeboys going through the tattoo removal process. the idea was to digitally remove the tattoos, present the before and after photos to the subjects and see how they would react. I knew that the subjects would be shocked by the images, and probably amused, but I didn’t realize the full impact these photos would have on them, nor was I aware of the kind of impact their reactions would have on me. it was a little surprising for everyone.’

steven burton skin deep

now, after two years and over 400 hours on photoshop, burton is seeking funding on kickstarter to publish ‘skin deep’, the book. the resulting images are cataloged alongside thoughts from the former gang members, offering insightful content that questions the way society perceives tattoos, and in turn, how this stigma affects the former gang members’ perception of themselves.

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marcos luna sees himself without tattoos for the first time in years
video courtesy of skindeep_homeboys

skin deep

skin deep

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francisco flores reacts to the digitally retouched portraits
video courtesy of skindeep_homeboys

steven burton skin deep

steven burton skin deep

steven burton skin deep

steven burton skin deep

steven burton skin deep

steven burton skin deep

steven burton skin deep

skin deep

skin deep

skin deep

skin deep

skin deep

nina azzarello I designboom

oct 31, 2016

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