Filipino photographer's book makes it big in Germany

It's about the Kalinga's dying art of cultural tattoo.


( Filipino photographer Jake Verzosa's The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga was one of eight books recently recognized by world-renowned photobook publisher Gerhard Steidl. As part of the Steidl Book Award Asia, the artist's photobook will be published in a boxed edition along other awarded titles, including those from Singapore, India, South Korea, Japan, and China. Winners traveled to Göttingen, Germany in January 2017 to work on the publication of their books which will be released later this year.



The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga features Verzosa's digital black-and-white prints showcasing the ancient tattoo technique called batok that dates back a thousand years. Unlike modern tattooing, the tattoo ink made of charcoal and water is tapped directly onto the skin through a thorn end. It is a symbol for beauty for women and a symbol of strength for men. Eighty-nine-year-old Whang-od Oggay is considered as the last mambababatok (hand-tap tattoo artist) of her tribe.


Verzosa with Germany Ambassador to the Philippines Melita S. Sta. Maria-Thomeczek (center) and Second Secretary Rona Beth Goce (leftmost) 


In the photographer’s words, “the main purpose of doing this was to document the last remaining people who adorn these tattoos and to hopefully reverse the changing perception of beauty among the Kalinga. The tattoos used to be a symbol of beauty, wealth, and honor but now, most see them as ancient, barbaric, and a stigma.”


The book was first launched in 2014 by Silverlens through the international photography fair Paris Photo where Vogue International editor Suzy Menkes noted how the photobook "showed women whose skin seemed to be patterned as if by a lacy sweater."


For more information on The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga, visit Jake Verzosa’s website.

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