I recently had the opportunity to photograph Rick Genest- also known as Zombie Boy or Rico the Zombie. The photoshoot was for the March, 2013 cover of Rebel Ink Magazine. Zombie Boy is a model and sideshow performer who is famous for his zombie-skeleton tattoo covering almost his entire body. You may have seen him featured in major fashion advertising campaigns, Lady Gaga music Videos, and even a tattoo removal make-up commercial. Whether you’re a fan of his tattoos or not, I can say that Rico the Zombie is truly stunning to look at, and it’s impossible to keep your eyes off him.
The main image was inspired by an classic image created by Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman called In Voluptate Mors. We chose to create a similar image with Zombie Boy because the visual portrayal of the skull goes along with the theme of the tattoo artwork decorating his “human canvas”. The women in the photographs are also covered in real tattoos, and were cast based on their position in the skull. In the actual magazine cover, you’ll notice the girls are wearing underwear.
With Rebel Ink being carried in stores, and this shot being intended for the cover, we needed the models to have some kind of clothing on… Now, Obviously the better of these shots is the nude version because the underwear, even though its flesh toned, is a little distracting. Not only does it cover up their tattooos, but it creates breaks in the otherwise continuous natural lines of the human body. So, I shot a version with clothing, and one without, then used the plates to make two versions of the same image. The reason behind this multi purposed. One reason was so the client could have the nude image to use in other places such as their website, and the other being I wanted the less distracting version for my own portfolio.
When creating these images, another reference I took from classic artwork was the “memento mori“. You may notice a skull hidden in the corner of some of the images. Many of the early painters who inspire my work implemented this type of symbolism in their own paintings. By placing a skull or another object hidden in the image, the artist is reminding the viewer to be mindful of their mortality. Literally translated, Memento mori means “remember your mortality.” I wanted to utilize this in my own images because you often hear people talking about the permanence of tattoos in a negative context. Bringing this extra skull into the image was my reminder that, like the rest of our bodies, the tattoos will fade.
If you’re wondering how these images were created, keep an eye out for a video tutorial I will be releasing in the near future. The video will featuring an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the studio lighting, color grading, and other technical elements that went into these photographs.
Publication: Rebel Ink Magazine March 2013 Issue
Creative Direction: Paul Gambino at Enoble Media
Zombie Boy / Rick Genest Official Site: http://www.rickgenest.com
Female Models: Adrian Louise, Kat Kalashnikov, Sailor Mary, Lindsay Hibbard, Kleio Valentien, Erica Savage,
Casting Director: Steve Prue
Assistants: Cory Jenkins, Jesse Korman, Dave Krysl, Luke Fontana, Oscar Zabala
Behind the Scenes: James Zanoni
Skin / Hair Retoucher: Pratik Naik