By Peter Schaller
So often, the best creations happen by accident.
Like so many of us, Joe Longo, creator of the Tattooed Yoga Project, started out on a much different path. He was playing college football on a scholarship, when he stumbled across photography. Struggling with academics, he signed up for a photography course, no doubt to get some easy credits and maintain the scholarship. Although he eventually failed the course, he fell immediately in love with photography, so much so that shortly after, he traded in his cleats for keys to the darkroom. Although he drifted away from photography for a few years, in 2008 he was shooting mostly landscapes and music, when a friend recommended that he put yogis into the landscapes.
A few years later, in 2014, one of Joe’s friends was moving from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. He decided to invite some friends from the yoga community, who just happened to have tattoos, for a photo shoot. It was meant to be a unique sendoff for his friend, but he had no idea, at that point, that something much larger was emerging. Joe set up a Facebook event and nearly fifty tattooed yogis showed up to participate in the two day shoot. The images were so impactful that Mantra, Yoga + Health magazine picked them up and did an eight page spread. With national coverage, the Tattooed Yoga Project was born.
The response to the concept of bringing people together to celebrate life through two ancient forms of creative expression (yoga and tattoos) with photography, was so overwhelming that other events were planned in New York, San Francisco, as well as other shoots on Joe’s turf in Philadelphia. During the first year, the Tattooed Yoga Project began to gain so much attention that four images were selected by SeeMe, and shown in Times Square.
As we traverse this time of so much division and contention in the world, what greater intention than that of bringing people together?
Joe Longo sees the Tattooed Yoga Project as a means of uniting people on common ground, celebrating the art of living and telling the stories of the lives that are intertwined in the project. Through the shoots, Joe has seen dozens of people coming together, creating friendships, promoting yoga, and the mindful art of living creatively. Although most of the folks that show up for the events practice yoga and have tattoos, the underlying message is that we are all human, we are all connected. Everyone is welcome in this organically, growing family.
The images on the web site are nothing less than spectacular. The combination of urban and natural landscapes, human bodies balanced in reflective postures and a colorful array of tattoos embellishing their bodies, creates an aesthetic pleasure that enters through the eyes and travels to great depths. Joe’s photographs are thriving with color, highlighting the art of the human body, and the creative masterpieces on the skin the with the gracefulness silence of yoga. Originally, the Tattooed Yoga shoots were held in a single location, but now tattooed yogis move from one place to another, in what Joe likes to visualize as a living, fluid art installation.
The first year of the Tattooed Yoga Project, 2014, was titled “Life,” 2015 was “Rebirth” and 2016 “Expansion.”
What Joe has discovered is that the project is taking on a life of its own. Although he has been tempted to conclude the project more than once, with each event, there are new people, new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. Eventually, Joe hopes to publish a large book of the images, as well as promoting shows in different galleries around the country. He would also like to connect more closely to, and photograph tattoo artists.
A new website has been developed for the Tattooed Yoga Project and by offering this creative child up to the world, Joe feels like he is giving it permission to grow on its own.
The Tattooed Yoga Project has given us color, life, creativity and connection. We can only imagine that the next phase will continue to make so many positive contributions to our complex world.
Photos: Joe Longo
Editor: Dana Gornall