Ex Gang Members Without Their Tattoos Prove Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

When young people join gangs, they often think they will be in them for life. Some of them are, whether because they commit for that long or because their lives are tragically cut short by gang violence. However, for those that outgrown the gang phase in their lives, who are able to extricate themselves from that environment, the marks of their former lives never leave their bodies. Tattoos cover most of their faces and arms, identifying them to everyone as a someone with a hard background.

Photographer Steven Burton is trying to combat the stereotypes that come from the public judging these people for their former lives. He spent two years and over 400 hours on photoshop editing out tattoos of portraits of ex-gang members that he shot, making them look clean-cut and erasing their pasts, in a way.

IMAGE SOURCE: STEVEN BURTON PHOTOGRAPHY 
IMAGE SOURCE: STEVEN BURTON PHOTOGRAPHY 

Burton has a Kickstarter page for his project and explains the significance of his photos to his subjects. “Most of the homeboys/girls hadn’t seen themselves without tattoos for decades, so during the interviews, I presented the images. There was a deep emotional response by the subjects.“

IMAGE SOURCE: STEVEN BURTON PHOTOGRAPHY 
IMAGE SOURCE: STEVEN BURTON PHOTOGRAPHY 

The photos are incredible and touching, as are the interviews with the subjects afterwards. They know how their tattoos make them look to society. “These images inspire personal insight from the subjects and elicit questions of how we as a society perceive and judge those with tattoos and how this stigma goes so far as to influence these former gang member’s perception of themselves.”

IMAGE SOURCE: STEVEN BURTON PHOTOGRAPHY 
IMAGE SOURCE: STEVEN BURTON PHOTOGRAPHY 
IMAGE SOURCE: STEVEN BURTON PHOTOGRAPHY