When Whanganui photographer Richard Wotton was looking for a new project to work on, he remembered the photos he took of tattoo shops in the 1980s.

"I had this bright idea that instead of photographing tattoo parlours, I could photograph the customers - people with tattoos," Mr Wotton said.

The result is Marking Time, a series of black and white portraits of people with tattoos. The show is currently on at Sarjeant on the Quay.

Out of the 120 portraits of people with tattoos that Mr Wotton made, 45 were selected for the exhibition.


"I was just looking for a project to work on, but in the early stages I realised it had the potential to become an exhibition," he said.

The subjects are from Whanganui, Wellington and Auckland. Mr Wotton - who has no tattoos himself - found the people through talking to tattooists, stopping people in the street, and word of mouth.

While it may seem unusual to display tattoos in black and white, for Mr Wotton it was a deliberate choice.

"I didn't want the colour of the tattoos to overwhelm the people. The tattoos are important, but they are secondary to the people.

"I thought all these people looked interesting - and I would have wanted to photograph them even without their tattoos."

Mr Wotton said he thought black and white format gave the photos a sculptural look.

Mr Wotton is a printer by trade, working as a compositor and linotype setter for the Wanganui Chronicle in the 1960s and 1970s. But he always had an interest in photography and began to study it seriously in the mid-1970s. He is a self-taught photographer.

Marking Time runs until February 5.