The Wider Image: Flesh on the hook
ZAGREB (Reuters) - On the rooftop of an empty building in Zagreb, Dino Helvida carefully pierces his client Kaitlin's torso, legs and face before putting hooks through her skin.
Shortly after, he suspends her from a metallic frame, her heavily tattooed body dangling horizontally in the air.
Helvida, 27, is a professional piercer and body suspension expert from Bosnia Herzegovina, who for the last six years has been hanging up the bodies of those brave enough to partake in what is an extreme form of body piercing, sometimes for hours.
The process is carefully done, and in this case Helvida works with his girlfriend Zorana. It involves first piercing the skin with needles, putting through metallic hooks, which are then attached to a thin rope to lift the suspendee off the ground.
"You can do one hook or you can do 100. You have different hooks for different positions and different hooks for different body parts," Helvida told Reuters.
"So everything is really calculated and it's safe."
It took Helvida around an hour to prepare Kaitlin, visiting Zagreb from the United States, for suspension. Devotees say the practice gives them a huge sense of well-being, and Kaitlin did not complain of discomfort once.
"It is painful. Piercing is painful, it's just like regular piercing," Helvida said. "Every time it's a new piercing and the wound heals really fast, it can heal in two weeks. I had hooks in my forehead and nobody can tell I had them."
How long a person remains suspended varies, depending on their position and how they feel. "Some people stay for four, five hours, some people need only three seconds," he said.
In Zagreb, body suspension - which has elements of fetishism and performance art - is not as popular as in some other places such as the United States, according to Helvida, whose main business is body piercing.
"I watched a documentary (about body suspension) and when I saw it, I knew I had to do it," he said. "It's very hard to explain (what it feels like). For me, it's releasing all the negative and bringing all the positive in."
For pictures of Helvida's body suspension work: http://reut.rs/1U8E1mk
(Reporting by Antonio Bronic; Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)