Transforming a Vacant Storefront Into a Tattoo Shop
EXT. EVENINGSIDE TATTOO SHOP - TWILIGHT
We are positioned in the center of a remote side street at sundown. The ground is wet, the air still and heavy. Before us is a tattoo shop on the ground floor of a brick two story house. The downstairs storefront has two large display windows, and upstairs appears to be an apartment, with curtains in the windows. There’s a free standing garage and a dumpster out back. A cacophony of wires criss-cross the building and sky above.
The storefront business is called EVENINGSIDE TATTOO, which is written in lettering on the window. There is a light on in an apartment upstairs, as well as a light in the garage out back. The display windows of the shop boast a collection of hand-drawn stencils for passersby to see and consider as options. They’re all illuminated by overhead fluorescent tubes.
Inside, a TATTOO ARTIST is in the middle of creating a tattoo of a perfect circle on a CUSTOMER’S back. We can see them both reflected in a mirror. A FRIEND waits outside on the stoop, drinking a beer and gazing down at the ground.
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Eveningside Tattoo (2021-2022) was shot in an abandoned building on a side street in Adams, MA. As with so many of Gregory’s pictures, locations are often used, revisited, and make more than one appearance in pictures across many years. This very building actually appears in the background of the below picture, made back in 2004.
It also appears in The Undertaker, 2021-2022:
And is the “storefront” in the picture The Storefront Window 2021-2022.
Above, and below, you can see that Gregory played with how close to bring the camera on this picture.
A closer frame was settled upon, obviously, bringing us closer to the figures (above).
Inside, walls had to be painted and partially built ahead of time by Jesika Farkas (production designer) and Mike Bedard (art department) and others, so that the location would have the appearance of a functioning business. The lettering, designed by Perry Grebin, is being painted, above, by Jesika the day of the shoot, while Gregory, Mike, and others, discuss a practical lighting fixture that was being hung over the stoop where a figure would be positioned.
It’s interesting to note that the colors chosen in this series (like the green paint above) were done so specifically with monochrome in mind, and were viewed ahead of time in black and white studies, for density and tone rather than actual color palette.
An interesting side note about tattoos in Gregory’s work: The title pictures from Eveningside 2021-2022 (this picture, Eveningside Tattoo,) and An Eclipse of Moths, 2018-2019, from the eponymous series (above), both involve tattoo artists and artwork creations on a figure’s back (a perfect circle in one, and moths in the other.) Putting tattoos in the titular images was not a conscious thing on Gregory’s part, in fact he didn’t fully make the connection until he looked back in retrospect, but he feels, it’s significant, nonetheless. He really likes tattoos in pictures because they are also a visual artform that tell their own story. So it’s a narrative and artistic representation within a larger picture.
Also, interestingly, in both pictures, Gregory’s original concepts were to have the tattoo artists themselves pictured as part of the narrative (Stephan Lanphear in An Eclipse of Moths, and Uri Braun in Eveningside, both of whom also created the “fake” tattoo artworks on the models.) But in both cases he felt the images worked better with the artists’ implied presences only, and he wound up taking them out.
Above, and below, a view of the street, closed to traffic, during production.
Above, you can also see the large black fabric (duvetyne) that was hung in front of the storefront windows to eliminate reflection.
Above, Ariana Taylor keeps the model warm between takes. This shoot went into the night and since it was fall, it was a bit chilly.
Shooting the mirror reflection (above.) And view from the monitors (below.)
Editor’s note: This piece was written by Juliane Hiam, who also writes the picture “descriptions,” as above, which articulate Gregory’s vision on the page, and are distributed to the crew and to the figures who appear on camera ahead of shooting. To meet Gregory’s wishes, the descriptions provide no motivation, no before, and no after; only strictly what will be represented visually within the frame. The written form instructs the production team how the actual locations will be infused with narrative in order to create an atmosphere; a mood; a fictive world that draws the viewer in.
Eveningside Tattoo is from Gregory’s series Eveningside, now on view at Reflex Gallery in Amsterdam, and at Alan Koppel Gallery in Chicago. It premiered at Gallerie d’Italia Torino in 2022 as part of a survey, curated by Jean-Charles Vergne, also called Eveningside, which included the past 10 years of Gregory’s work. Eveningside, and the survey, will open July 3 at Les Rencontres d’Arles.
A book, Eveningside, published by Skira Editore | Gallerie d’Italia is now available in English, French, and Italian editions.
The video clip at the top is by Harper Glantz. It is an early “blip” made while in the process of cutting together her behind-the-scenes film meditation “Making Eveningside,” which in its entirety is 20 minutes in length, and was created to be shown as a dual-screen film installation. This blip, as well as the full length projection, are set to original music by James Murphy and Stuart Bogie.