Until 2011, Amy Black was a well-respected but straightforward tattoo artist, working on the bodies of the men and women of Richmond, VA, where she owns a small parlor. But one day she received a telephone call that would drastically change the course of her career.
A woman whose breast had been removed following cancer phoned Amy's shop looking for a tattoo artist who might be able to recreate the nipple and areola that she lost in the mastectomy. Amy agreed and has been creating lifelike nipples and covering surgery scars with beautiful designs ever since. She also started the Pink Ink Fund, a charity that gives financial aid to those seeking post-mastectomy breast tattoos.
Paula Haydock and James Callum of Too Much, a London-based video production company, decided to make a short documentary about Amy and her diverse clientele after Paula read an article about Amy's mission. The doc features Amy as well as some of the people whose lives have been touched by her work.
You can watch the doc here and read a Q&A with the film's directors below.
How did you first come across Amy Black, and why did you think she would make an interesting subject for a documentary?
Paula Haydock: "I discovered the amazing Amy Black after reading an article about how the Instagram's ban on female nipples caused her social media posts to be taken down as 'inappropriate content.' I couldn’t understand how something so positive could be censored, and how her work wasn't being championed more. So James and I decided to tell her story and show how profoundly her work helps people."
What were your first impressions of Amy?
James Callum: "Amy was super cool and friendly straight away. She gave us a big hug as soon as we met her and asked us a lot about London and our 'artistry,' which was a term I liked but found ironic considering that we saw her as the artist.
"She was busy working for the rest of that day but we met up in the evening for a drink and discussed the plans for the next few days. Paula had already organized for us to meet all of the people featured in the film so we were all set. After knowing Amy for a bit longer now, I would describe her as very humble. She is genuinely stoked that she gets to help people."
How is she seen in her city?
PH: "Richmond is known for its tattoo culture, and Amy is very much a known name within the community. When we first starting shooting the doc, we were filming with her on the streets of Richmond, and a passer by called out, 'Are you Amy Black? I love your work!' It happened purely by chance, but of course we kept it in the film. It shows just what an inspiring presence she already is in her community, and hopefully our film can help spread her influence further."
How do you think she makes her clients feel?
JC: "From what I witnessed, Amy makes her clients feel totally in control during the entire process. She takes the artistic process very seriously and wants to create something individual for each client. The final results are truly life changing. Listening to the clients talk about being able to stand in front of the mirror and actually look at their own body without flinching was very moving."
Were you surprised at how open some of Amy's clients were?
PH: "Amy’s clients were so enthusiastic. All it took was a brief email explaining what we wanted to do with them and they all jumped at the chance. The top line was always the same: 'Anything we can do to show what a wonderful human Amy is.'"
JC: "We were incredibly lucky to be able to meet such an open group of people, each with very different reasons and aims for their tattoo. I don't think they knew quite what to expect when we arrived at their door but each of them were very welcoming and I like to think we made them feel comfortable very quickly. To be willing to take your clothes off in front of two complete strangers is also very brave. They were so keen to share their stories because they want to spread the word of the brilliant work Amy is doing. I think it may have been cathartic for them to sit down and explain the processes and emotion involved with each of their situations."
Was there anyone's story you came across that particularly moved you?
PH: "I actually cried during filming. One lady told the story of her battle with cancer and explained that, for her, the only reason she even had implants was to prove to her daughter that cancer can’t take anything away from you.
"Each person we filmed with had an incredibly touching story and to hear in such frank words how these people have continued with their lives and found such a positive way of looking at the world is very moving. I think I can speak for James as well in saying we both felt very humbled after our time in Virginia."
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