Portraits and Panoramas

Well, not really panoramas, but it’s the same idea.

I mentioned in an earlier post about a photo book I’d like to release when this film is complete.
I’ve been trying out different ways of taking photos around the shop.

Here’s a few portraits of some of the guys at the shop that I used to test how I’d use the look.
Dante was the first one I shot. When stitching it together I realised I could tell a story or at least emphasise elements by shooting from different angles.
With this portrait of Emiliano I tried to capture different points in time in the same final image. Sadly, I didn’t get chance to stick around until he finished the tattoo.
Jesus & Mary. These guys watch over the shop every day. Anyone who’s been in to our basement shop will recognise this statue.
I decided to get shots of The Shop when it was empty. I hope to take one during a busy work day once I get comfortable with this technique.
Even though the space was tight, I managed to get most of the angles I wanted for this portrait of Valerie.

I look forward to doing more of these in the future. I really like the way these pictures have some of the same feel as getting tattooed or doing a tattoo. There’s multiple things to think about, lots going on and it’s a little overwhelming at times.

While Valerie was painting a sticker design to promote this film, I did a quick & dirty test with my iPhone to see if I could use the same idea with video. I uploaded these clips in HD at 1080p so they’ll look great full screen.
There’s a white version that emulates the look of the photos.

Then there’s a version with a black background that I think suits video better than the white.

These are early versions and tests. I aim for the finished products to be much better looking and more interesting.

Stickers, the photoshoot.

Everyone loves stickers, right?

I’ve designed a couple of stickers to get the word out a bit about the film.

globe & beau comp2 globe & beau comp2

I haven’t decided which design I will print but I hope to have it ready for the Paris Tattoo Convention next month. Hopefully I’ll have them available at the Frith Street booth. I may do flyers based on this design too.

Beau Brady was in town for the Brighton Tattoo Convention last weekend. We were chatting about the film and he joked that I could have him parody the classic Atlas pose. It was a funny conversation and I thought it was a great idea.
The day before Beau flew back home we did a quick photo shoot. He spent the best part of a whole day “getting vascular” by eating chocolate, drinking milk and protein shakes, lifting heavy things and doing push-ups.

Beau used water bottles and our shop helper Nicholas, as weights:


He gets posture advice from Jordan during training and the shoot:
BeauAtlasfeb13_03 BeauAtlasfeb13_04
Blue Steel.

We tried to find gold briefs but alas, shiny black leatherette was all we could find at short notice.

Shane and Nicholas hold the backdrop while Jordan and Chad watch from the sidelines.

Which way is the beach?”

While taking posture advice from Jordan and art direction from me, Beau’s expression is “Are you fucking serious?BeauAtlasfeb13_10

 The chosen shot, unedited.

Thanks Beau!


FST: Transcripts on the shoulders of giants

Yawn, more posts about transcriptions? where are all the videos?

Well, the sad truth is that I’m at a stage of production where that’s what’s happening and there’s not much to show for the work I’m doing. Danny is working on the transcripts as I film new interviews. I can’t do new interviews as often as I’d like because I have to work around everybody else’s schedule. Frith Street Tattoo is still running as usual and I can’t conduct interviews in a noisy tattoo shop. I have to do interviews after work or during tattooer’s days off. To add to the difficulty, there’s been a few conventions recently where nobody has the time to get interviewed because they are preparing for, or traveling to to conventions. I’m also preparing for upcoming conventions.

Whining aside, I’m still enjoying myself and within my very loose schedule and I still expect to have this film finished late this year.

Transcripts of Giants_CoverWhile I don’t plan to sell this film or charge people to view it, (I’ll dedicate a post to the reasons for that at a later date) there’s a strong chance that I’ll offer things for sale that have things to do with the film: T-shirts, stickers, drawings, tattoo flash etc. Some other things I’d like to share and offer for sale would be:

  • A photo book including work produced at Frith Street with other behind-the-scenes type shots. I’d like this book to also include some of the planning notes I’ve made during the production.
  • A book of the edited interviews that will be used in the film.

In preparation for the kind of organisation those things require, I put together a book of the interviews I have so far. This book is around 170 pages. I expect the finished one to be around 250 to 350 pages if I include a few images.TranscriptUN_mockup02b I used the publishing service at lulu.com. I just ordered two copies on Feb 13th, one for me and one for Danny Woodruff. These particular ones won’t be available to anyone else because they are totally unedited, often difficult to read and possibly libellous in places. I will produce a real one, with every interview when the film is finished. At the time of writing the books hadn’t arrived so I made a few mock-ups, as you can see in this post.TranscriptUN_mockup03

Valerie Vargas February 2013

The post about hardware, software and equipment can wait…

Last week I interviewed Valerie again.
This time with my revised line of questioning. I think the answers may seem a little disjointed here, out of context. I’m really happy with the direction this interview took and I think it will help the overall direction of the film.

Here Valerie talks a little about the importance of peer review, reference, homage and touches on some of the negative health aspects that have arisen directly as a result of tattooing.

Late January 2013, Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted.

I don’t have a lot to show from the work I’ve been doing on this project over the last couple of weeks. Danny Woodruff has transcribed the last of the interviews that I shot last year and he’s waiting for me to shoot more. The reason I haven’t shot any more just yet, is that as well as setting up reliable backups and other post production tasks, I’ve been working on new ideas about the questions I want to ask the guys at the shop. I hope that the new angle to the interviews will be much more interesting and further away from the standard tattooer interviews that we’ve all read or watched many times, as well as being more interesting to the interviewees. Hopefully it will be stuff the guys at the shop like to talk about too.

So there’s something interesting to look at in this post, here’s a teaser I put together with some footage of tattoos (for a change)

As soon as I shoot new interviews I’ll put short clips here along with updates on the progress of the film.

Maybe the next post will be about the slightly less exciting part of which software, apps, hardware and equipment I’ve set up to deal with the myriad of tasks making a film requires.

In November I mentioned transcribing interviews. When it became obvious I wasn’t able to do it on my own, I posted on Last Sparrow Tattoo asking for help from that community.
Quite a few people responded and offered to help – for which I’m very very grateful.
I now have a ‘reserve list’ to call on in the future – thank you all.

A long-time customer of mine emailed me with an offer to help transcribing the interviews. I sent him a couple of audio files of interviews just before Xmas 2012 and on New Year’s Day 2013 he sent me back the first transcription. His name is Danny Woodruff. I guess he’s the only other member of ‘staff’ on this project so far.
I couldn’t have been happier with the results of his work. He did a much better job than I could have, naming each speaker, marking laughter and audio problems etc. He even managed to deal with multiple accents. My northern English, Chad’s north eastern USA and Alex Reinke’s German accents didn’t seem to phase him.

It’s a hell of a lot of work, with more to come but all this effort will pay off when it comes to the editing stage.

Danny is away from the UK so he and I are keeping track of files and our progress using the project management site trello.com – it’ working great so far. I can sign in with my gmail details, attach files within the online software or link to files stored with Dropbox or Google Drive. The checklists there really make communicating remotely much simpler than doing it via email.

Here’s a glimpse at the “Transcriptions” folder on my hard drive. You can see the interviews Danny has transcribed and the ones he’s still got to do. In the coming months the “To Do” folder will get fatter too. I just need to make sure I update the boards at trello.com each time I finish an interview.


Here’s some close-ups of the transcription pages from Alex Reinke’s interview.
The eagle-eyed among you might notice that these are the bits from Alex’s Blog Clip last week.

The blank boxes to the right of the sheets are for my notes while re-watching the clips. Then I select the sections I want to use, cut them out and assemble a ‘paper edit’. I’ll use the paper edit to assemble the first cut of the film, so this project is still in the very early stages.

Thanks for reading,


Continue reading

Alex Reinke

On the 2nd of January I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Reinke aka Horikitsune.
It’s the longest interview yet – we talked for almost two and a half hours at his private studio in London.
A conversation with Alex is always interesting and at times I was reluctant to steer the discussion back into areas relevant for this project.

Alex Reinke is a good friend of ours. He worked full-time at Frith Street Tattoo between 2008 and 2010 but he’s been visiting since 2004. His influence is still felt with the people who worked with him and it’s certainly noticeable within my tattoo work. It’s an honour to have him be part of this project, partly because of his openness and humility but mostly for his unique perspective and position within the lineage of modern tattooing – which is a theme at the heart of this project.

In this short clip he talks about relationships within tattooing, why he no longer works at Frith Street Tattoo and how he feels about the shop now he works privately.

Thank you for reading and watching.
Thank you to Alex for your hospitality and openness.

More Valerie Vargas!

Here’s more stuff from the dusty hard drives I’ve been moving over.
I think this is the first interview I did. I probably sat myself in front of the camera to test it was working but that doesn’t count.

This short (very roughly edited) interview was a screen test for me to check equipment, workflow and editing software. We did it in April 2012. My questions were vague (mostly the usual crap about influence, reference and favourite tattooers) and my interview technique left a lot to be desired. I learned a lot from this interview. I’ve learned a lot from every interview and shoot so far, but we always have a special place in our heart for our first. This interview gave me the confidence to interview people I wasn’t so familiar with.

The only equipment I still use from this shoot is the camera body and SD card. Everything else, the lighting, microphone, recording device and lenses have been replaced by higher quality versions.

I’m showing it here as behind-the-scenes footage for those who care about that stuff.

Valerie Archive Interview (April 2012) from Stewart Robson on Vimeo.

Valerie Vargas Lion Backpiece

I mentioned in my last post that this project originally had a slightly different focus. Also in this post too.
Over the last few days I’ve been migrating files from my laptop to a much more suitable editing computer. While I was moving them I had to check what some of them were and I found some old clips I’d made to help me get used to editing and filming with the equipment I use now. This clip doesn’t have the same feel as the stuff I’m shooting now but I still like it. Rather than it never see the light of day except in my household  I thought it might be interesting here.

I hope to post some more older stuff soon too.

Time-Lapse Experiments

I doubt these clips will work their way into the finished project. So think of them as sort of bonus features.

Early in 2012 when this project had a different focus, I tried a few different time-lapse techniques.

Trivia Bit:
The footage was shot in May, June and July 2012.
There’s a couple of clips with me in the foreground and Valerie tucked away  at the other side of the room. There is a couple of just me and my clients then there’s wide angle shots of Chris and Will from VICE filming us (for Valerie’s TattooAge episodes) while we work and then interviewing me.

Tech Bit:
I’ve done a little time-lapse before with my iPhone but I wanted better looking results and more control over exposure and focus.

  • First was with the GoPro Hero2 but the angle is a little wide and gives the feeling of CCTV footage.
  • Then I tried Valerie’s Nikon J1 which worked well but I found it difficult to set the aperture manually to a setting I wanted to use for a time-lapse shoot. Also the lens is only available with 3.8/5.6 aperture which often is not wide enough for what I wanted.
  • Finally, using the Magic Lantern firmware hack, I tried a Canon 600D (which is what most of this project has been shot with so far). This meant that I could use the lenses I already have, with their wide aperture and wide range of focal lengths. (most interviews so far were shot with 16-35mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 or occasionally  a 50mm f/1.8 prime) I compiled the image sequence using QuickTime Pro and exported from there.

All these attempts can be seen in the video above.

I haven’t totally abandoned time-lapse, but if I use it, I’d like it to be more than a gimmick.