Kat Von D Portraits (& Insight from Celebrity Photographer Lionel Deluy)

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Deluy’s collaborations with ink icon Kat Von D are notorious. Deluy shot the inkster for her calendar and her New York Times bestseller, “High Voltage Tattoo,” helping to define the media’s image of the personality. Those who’ve traversed Lionel Deluy’s lenses represent a contemporary who’s who, revealing slices of lives of those who are living out dreams, and those who’ve arrived in the eye of the inked needle.

Evident from Deluy’s work is the transition in the zeitgeist of talent who’ve grabbed our focus, expanding from filmmakers, musicians and actors to equally include rappers, extreme sportspeople, and tattoo artists. As one of Celebs.com’s preferred picture-takers, we caught these words with Deluy, and asked him to share some recent images.

Someone said you’re the no.1 photographer of tattoo images in the world?
Or maybe it’s just that everyone now has tattoos. When people look at Miami Ink, and LA Ink, and all these personalities who have tattoos they want to look like them. It’s insane what TV did to everyone. Now, if Brad Pitt gets one tattoo, you’ll have 10,000 people wanting to copy that tattoo. Before, they were copying haircuts, like the Beatles.

Being a rock star never went hand in hand with having tattoos?
The Rolling Stones didn’t have tattoos. I did pictures of Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols, I don’t remember if even he had a tattoo. It was not part of the culture at all.

Every rapper I shoot is full of tattoos and each has a story. I learned about gang tattoos from photographing people like The Game and 50 Cent. As the photographer, you’re asking, “What is this one?” I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know, like a little teardrop means you killed someone. This is a different kind of tattoo, though, you know? It’s tribal.

Some photographers provoke movement from their subjects and then start taking photos; you seem to start taking photos when the person finds stillness.
I don’t know why. It’s just a feeling for me. And a lot of times it’s not nice to make a picture when people are speaking [Deluy pulls a face. Laughs]. It’s better they shut up when you take their picture.

You shot the Tommy Lee and Kat Von D covers for “Rebel Ink” magazine not long ago. What was it like shooting Kat again?
With Kat von D it’s different, you know? Because I made her image first with a calendar, then with her book, so it has always been just me and her, and her boyfriend at the time (or her husband) or… I don’t know. [Laughs] She’s smart. And she knows what she wants.

What about the ink you’ve chosen for yourself?
The first one, it’s covered now, was an ohm. I did that back in France when nobody did tattoo. Twenty years ago, I was on a beach in Mexico, and I met a guy with a battery-operated thing and he said, “You want me to cover it?” It was supposed to be turned into a wolf or something like that. It’s a mess.

About seven years ago, I got a classic Sailor Jerry monkey at [Mark Mahoney’s] Shamrock Social Club on Sunset. Then I got the devil on my back from Shamrock, too. After that, I did this one that says “Smile” – Kat von D did that, and she did the “S” on my ring finger when I got engaged to [Deluy's fiancee] Shayla.

Kat did this one, too. It’s a wolf with a cone on its head, and it says “Bad Day?” And then it says “Things could be worse,” and the fox comes in and has sex with him. It was in a newspaper, like 15 years ago, and I cut it out. I put it in my closet where I lived, and every time I moved I put it in the new closet; every time I opened it I said, “Bad day? Could be worse.”

While it appeared that Kat Von D has had some bad days lately, her break-up with Jesse James, the cancellation of “LA Ink,” with one of those situations now remedied, it seems the worst of recent times is behind her.

All photos by Lionel Deluy. To check out more of the photographer’s work, go to www.lioneldeluy.com