Still Images in Great Advertising- Matt Barnes

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

I am a true believer of doing pro-bono work, because it is not only for a great cause, but it is usually the most creative work. Why wouldn’t you want your signature on it. I found this campaign in Ads of the World (where I find a lot of my material) and not only loved the message but the way Matt Barnes shot it.

Suzanne: I see that you used stock images for the basis of the tattoos. Do you think it would have been too invasive to have used “real” victims?
Matt: While the turn around time didn’t allow for that approach, what was most important for us was presenting the message in the best way possible – with that idea in mind, I purposefully kept the lighting nondescript and the models almost shadowed. I was provided with the tag lines for the scrolls of the tattoos before the shoot so that helped me choose the stock images I wanted to use. I wanted a wide age range and preferred faces looking straight at camera. With a project like this, the identities of the models weren’t as important as the idea and message behind it all.

Suzanne: How did the tattoo artist, David Glantz, get the images on the figures? The work is so detailed that these are amazing pieces of art. How tricky was that?
Matt: As the subject is so significant, appropriately executing each facet was crucial. The process worked something like this; first off I found suitable stock personalities to fit each role – diversity was essential and I spent a lot of time searching out suitable people. Once they were selected, I made the images black & white, added contrast, removed detail and enhanced the edges, before passing the digital files along to David (who I had known already through friends that he’d tattooed). He printed and traced the images, added the banners and type and I was left with pulling off the trickiest bit – applying the tattoos to the models digitally, while maintaining a realistic look. It was difficult, but I gave them the appearance of age to better set them into the skin and was happy with the results. David was vital in pulling the project off and I was really pleased that he was into working on it with me. It wouldn’t have turned out half as well without him.

Suzanne: This campaign is very alarming and really gets your attention. I know so many people who ink their bodies because the loss of a loved one, so this is very powerful. How successful was the campaign?
Matt: I had a great response on my end; I received lots of feedback via my blog ( and a fair of bit of press at the time as well. The ads ran around the holidays, a topical time for the issue at hand, and I hope it made an impact.

Matt Barnes is a commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada and his work can be seen at

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.

There Are 8 Comments On This Article.

  1. Nobody has anything to say about this great project Matt did? How fortunate it is that such a worthy cause is the beneficiary of Matt’s focus, passion and skill.

    • Suzanne Sease

      Paul, Thank you for your kind words towards Matt and this project. I agree and when I saw it on Ads of the I felt the same way. Matt’s beautiful style brought the campaign more impact!!

  2. Thanks Suzanne, that means a lot. Matt expresses his reasoning for doing pro-bono so well. This cat has been at it for 5 years (if I read it correctly) and has already developed such sense of contributing to the greater good…I’m embarrassed .
    When I think about all of the creative energy he put into this project it makes me take stock of what motivates my work.

    And you know what, if nothing else… Matt’s done the right thing. Three cheers! Let’s pass it on.

  3. Go Matt! I’ve been a big fan of his since 2005 when I found him through Olympus user groups. Glad to see him kicking ass with great work. Thanks for sharing Suzanne!