Tattoo Odyssey

Tattoo Odyssey

Photographer Chris Rainier has spent the last two decades documenting tattoo culture. His journeys have taken him through jungles, cities, deserts, and into the territory of New Guinea hill tribes and L.A. street gangs. What he's found is that tattoos are engrained in the consciousness of humans as a way of expressing identity. Join him as he visits the Indonesian island of the Mentawai people, where the ancient ritual of tattooing is rapidly disappearing. Rainier hurries to document this culture before its traditional ways change forever.

Tattoo Odyssey: Sneak Peek

Needles, ink and flesh tell a story of self-expression. From urban tattoo parlors to indigenous tattoo ceremonies, humans share a cultural connection through manmade markings.

Chris Rainier

Chris Rainier

Chris Rainier is a world-renowned photographer. Rainier began his professional career as a photographic assistant to famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams. Today, Rainier's photographs and books are widely exhibited and published around the world. He has received numerous awards for his photography, including five ""Picture of the Year"" awards for his continued documentation of vanishing tribes. Rainier states that his life's mission is to ""help empower indigenous peoples - helping them to use photography and technology to enhance their culture and lives."" He has spent the last two decades documenting tattoo cultures in every corner of the world. The photographic odyssey has taken him from the Yakuza in Japan to the hill tribes of New Guinea to the street gangs of Los Angeles. When he's not traveling the world with camera in tow, he spends his time at home in New York, and among the mountains and streams in Colorado.

Ansel Adams

Working With Ansel Adams

It wasn't always tattoos and tropical adventures. As a young photographer Chris Rainier worked as a photographic assistant for famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams. Adams encouraged Rainier to develop a style that utilized photography as a social tool. He taught Rainier to view life as art and his influence is still evident in Rainier's choice of subjects and composition.

To learn more about Ansel Adams' photographic career, watch Stories from the Vaults.

There's MORE to the story. Discover the inspirations, see the artifacts and meet the experts of the Smithsonian Institution.

  • LOOKING AT THE WORLD'S TATTOOS

    After traveling the world documenting the human urge to embellish our own skin, will photographer Chris Ranier add ink to his own flesh?

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