TAHITI / Polynesian Tatau

A portrait series shot at the 2016 Polynesian tattoo Convention in Tahiti. These images focus on Tahitian Tribal Chiefs and traditional Polynesian tattoos artists.

This is a personal portrait series taken at the 2016 Polynesian Tattoo Convention in Tahiti.

I met and photographed the high chiefs of the Tahitian tribes as well as an incredibly talented group of traditional Polynesian tattoo artists, dedicated to a beautiful culture and endangered art form. The majority of these tattoos are not done with machines but are done by hand with wooden sticks with metal "combs". This can be done by hand poking, which is popular in Japan or by tapping the comb with another stick. The instruments are designed differently for each technique but the idea is the same. The word "Tatau" (Tattoo) comes from the sound of the sticks tapping.

I had no idea what to expect at the convention and the only piece of equipment I had with me was my Sony A7R2. I found a corner of the convention that was partially covered, with two grey walls and open to air on one side. There was one halogen lamp fixed to the ceiling. I was able to rotate the lamp but could not angle it or change it's height. The light and the position of my subject was enough to balance the angles of light and balance the ratio of halogen and available daylight. The blueish edge light is the open air daylight and there was indirect daylight that filled in the shadows a bit. I found it quite liberating to use what was available to me to create these "studio portraits". It's nice to have expensive photography gear but I've always believed it doesn't "make the photo".

Chief Miko / Chief Gapotai
Chief Gapotai
Chief Ramond Graffe / Maxime Panzera
Chief Ramond Graffe / Tautu Ellis
Sousyu Hayashi / Fran Muñoz
Chime / Roonui Anania
Chime / Raphael Ketterer
Raphael Ketterer / Max
© Dale May - All Rights Reserved
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