Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Tattoosday Book Review: Painted Bodies

As regular readers may now, we occasionally review tattoo-related books here on Tattoosday. We're going to try and make this a regular Saturday occasion as we enter the colder weather and try to make our summer backlog last as long as possible.

Today's book is Painted Bodies: African Body Painting, Tattoos, and Scarification by the award-winning photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher.

Published by Rizzoli, this beautiful book offers up large and colorful photos en masse - highlighting a wide range and variety of body art adorning African tribes. I will concede, the 288 pages of mostly full-page photographs are specific to body paint, there is one chapter that focuses on tattoos and scarification.

That said, this is not the book for someone looking for an expose on African tattooing. However, I paged through this volume transfixed, amazed at the simple beauty of the patterns and color utilized by the tribal artists documented with great respect for its subjects.

Beckwith and Fisher have been photographing the indigenous people of Africa for decades and have produced several volumes over the years that have celebrated the diversity of cultures on that continent.
This large coffee table-sized book, which retails for US$100.00, but is discounted through, at least at the time of this writing, takes great care to not only document the different body-painting styles of numerous tribes, but to also describe in chapter prefaces, the processes and cultural significance of the techniques.

"In order to attract females, Karo men decorate themselves lavishly using clays and pigments found naturally in the Omo River region..."    © Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, 2012
Although technically not a tattoo book, I still believe this would be a valuable addition to anyone's library, whether it is utilized as a sourcebook and inspiration for artists looking to the roots of body art, or as an appreciation of one section of humanity's embrace of the earth and human expression.

"A proud Wodaabe female from Niger is easily identified by a combination of tattoos that mark her forehead, cheeks, and the corners of her lips, along with face paint that emphasizes her aquiline nose and high cheekbones." © Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, 2012
I would recommend, if anyone is interested in the work of these photographers, to head over to this National Geographic website, where one can learn more about Beckwith and Fisher, and see more of their amazing photos.

This review is ©2012 Tattoosday. All images and excerpts are ©2012 Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher.

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