From the moment I saw pictures of Céline, I knew that I had to find out more about her tattoo journey. I would come to appreciate just where Céline, a talented photographer of heavily tattooed people in her spare time , had come from and where she was headed with Guy le tatooer. Every one of the many decisions making up her bodysuit are carefully considered and the tattoos have evolved parallel to her relationship with Guy.
Interview – James McCauley
Photography – Provided by Céline
Hi Céline. So your bodysuit is evolving at quite a rapid pace. Just how often have you been getting tattooed lately?
I started getting tattoos on a regular basis in 2009. I was 15 (2002) when I got my first tattoo, but everything got really serious 3.5 years ago when it was the right time for me to start my bodysuit. Since then I have been getting tattooed once or twice every month. When working on such a huge project I think regularity is crucial. I like being able to see the progress and I always give 100% at everything I do.
Do you find it mentally and physically taxing, or is the whole thing relaxing for you?
Getting tattooed is physically exhausting and I find the healing process particularly tough for the nerves. So you could say it’s both a physical and mental performance to go through what I’m experiencing.
Also, I think it has transformed in some sort of ritual for me. Now that I have a deeper understanding of the process, I think it’s clear that I’m getting more than the tattoos throughout this journey. I truly believe in the power of tattooing and in the transfer of energy between the artist and the person getting tattooed.
What was it about Guy’s work that led you to go to him for you back piece, and then collaborate on your body as a whole?
I have always been amazed by how powerful Guy’s work is. I find his art mind blowing and completely unique. It’s more than just an imagery. It has soul.
As soon as I decided I would go for ornamental work, it was obvious that he was the only one who could and should do my back piece.
My first experience with him was quite powerful as we agreed on getting my back done in 3 consecutive days. And I have to say the pain was intense as Guy is heavy handed. From there, things just happened really naturally between us and we decided to keep the project going…
“As I’m writing this, we have plans for at least 10 more sessions and we keep adding ideas to refine and enhance my bodysuit each time we see each other. As Guy likes to say, we will never be finished. It’s a never ending project.”
You’ve been tattooed by a lot of great artists, but you seem to have a special connection with Guy. How important is that relationship in undertaking such a huge journey along with him?
Guy is my shaman! I have an unconditional love for this man. We have a very pure and noble relationship. It’s about respect, sharing knowledge, life lessons and most importantly energy and power. We understand each other and share a lot of things in our personal approaches to tattoos and tattooing in general. I’m just so grateful to have him in my life. This experience is unique and it has helped me to grow as a stronger person without mentioning Guy has transformed my body in a complex artwork.
It seems that cohesion is a huge theme in what you and Guy are working towards. Do you think you will ever be fully satisfied with the work you have on you, or will you always wonder if there’s something else that could be added?
The idea is to create an entire bodysuit together and we have been working hard on creating a cohesive look, knowing that I already had many tattoos when we started the project.
As I’m writing this, we have plans for at least 10 more sessions and we keep adding ideas to refine and enhance my bodysuit each time we see each other. As Guy likes to say, we will never be finished. It’s a never ending project. And at that point, I’m just really curious to see where this project will lead us…
I will be visiting him again in July for our 2 years anniversary in this project. 21 sessions done in 24 months. How incredible!
Your photography work for your blog, Inspired Tattoo Portraits , features heavily tattooed people. Did you gain a new understanding for the reasoning behind people having so much modification to them once you’d started your own journey?
I started this art project right when I started my own bodysuit journey. At the time, it was a study to try to understand the mechanisms behind the process and what it means to be heavily tattooed. It was fascinating for me at that time to meet people who had gone through what I was preparing to go through. I learned a lot from them. But at some point, I simply surpassed them in my journey and I had access to the answers within myself. Nothing can equal the experience.
Who’s been your favourite person to work with for the project?
Honestly they all had that special something that made them unique and fascinating. I made 9 portraits and I encourage anyone to read them. These people all come from different backgrounds, have different approaches and style of tattoos. I enjoyed spending time with each of them and some became really close friends…
You and your tattoos are becomingly increasingly shared images worldwide, providing countless people around the globe with inspiration, as well as making you instantly recognisable. How does that feel?
It’s a bit crazy to be honest, I didn’t see that coming. I’m not even sure to realise the impact it has on people. But I think it’s cool if it can spread a positive image of tattooing. Guy and I have a different approach from what you can normally see which makes it interesting in my opinion.
Lastly, could you share a favourite story from your time being tattooed over the years?
I think what happened at Paris Tattoo Convention Mondial du Tatouage this year was pretty crazy and totally unexpected. I only decided to go one day to spend time with my friends working the convention and when I stopped by Guy’s booth, he looked at me and told me we should join the tattoo contest. I answered yes right away without thinking what I was getting into. I went straight to the registration booth and they told me that the bodysuit category was only the day after so I had to come back. When I woke up the next day I was so anxious I wanted to call Guy and cancel… Picturing me naked, on a stage, in front of thousands of people watching and taking photos, I was like “Why did I say yes ?”. That’s something Guy and I didn’t plan or talk about so it totally caught me off guard. But I figured I couldn’t let him down and decided to go instead. When I got there we were 27 people registered in this category. Everyone seemed so comfortable naked in backstage. I was literally the only one stressing out, wondering what I was doing there… The adrenaline I felt when I went on stage was incredible. The venue is so outstanding and the artists judging my tattoos were the impressive but so easy to reach Filip Leu, Bill Salmon, Luke Atkinson and Kari Barba…! I had a few minutes to tell them about the main direction of the project and pointed out that my bodysuit was still in progress. When they called Guy and I back on stage for winning 3rd prize for best bodysuit I was literally in shock. I felt so proud of Guy, of us for all the hard work, dedication and pain we put in this project. It was truly magical to share this moment with Guy and see our efforts and his art acknowledged by legends!
Find more of Guy’s work by searching #guyletatooer on Instagram.