In honor of Veterans Day, Herron photography students Shelby Flora and Zach Carrico have unveiled a series of portraits focusing on the tattoos of past and present U.S. service members at IUPUI, which has the largest veteran population of any college or university in Indiana.
Tattoos in the military are slightly taboo. Any ink that can be seen in the most visible places such as the face, neck, wrists, hands, or fingers is against regulation. But that hasn’t prevented veterans and active service members from permanent self-expression to symbolize their service and love of country.
During the 2017 spring through fall semesters, Flora and Carrico photographed 30 veterans for their “Military Tattoos @ IUPUI” series. The project is a collaboration with IUPUI’s Office for Veterans and Military Personnel, which provides resources to veterans to aid in their overall success as IUPUI students.
“Military Tattoos @ IUPUI” will be on display in the Cultural Arts Gallery of the IUPUI Campus Center from November 9, 2017 through January 3, 2018. Read on to learn more about the exhibition and the people behind the ink in conversation with Flora and Carrico.
HERRON: Tell us about the concept behind this portrait series.
SHELBY FLORA: I believe that there is a certain level of intimacy in photographing someone, and particularly in this case just being witness to their tattoos and whatever they chose to share with us. We really wanted that to come through in the way that we presented the work.
ZACH CARRICO: Our goals all along were to give a platform to people who don’t necessarily always have a platform to express their tattoos because of the military’s restrictions. The exhibition utilizes photography and installation to evoke a conversation about not only what it means to have tattoos, but also why it’s important to confront the negative connotations surrounding them. This series was created in the hopes that it will honor both our military personnel and their tattoos.
HERRON: How did this project come to life?
CARRICO: Joe Hayes, the director of the IUPUI Campus Center, came to me asking if I could help with this project using my photography skills. But I didn’t want to do this project alone because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it all by myself.
FLORA: That’s when Zach came to me and asked if I could meet with Kim Bloodgood [director of IUPUI’s Office for Veterans and Military Personnel] to talk more about this project as a collaboration and how we could bring it to life as fine artists.