I recently had the opportunity to photograph Rick Genest- also known as Zombie Boy or Rico the Zombie. The photoshoot was for the March, 2013 cover of Rebel Ink Magazine. Zombie Boy is a model and sideshow performer who is famous for his zombie-skeleton tattoo covering almost his entire body. You may have seen him featured in major fashion advertising campaigns, Lady Gaga music Videos, and even a tattoo removal make-up commercial. Whether you’re a fan of his tattoos or not, I can say that Rico the Zombie is truly stunning to look at, and it’s impossible to keep your eyes off him.
The main image was inspired by an classic image created by Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman called In Voluptate Mors. We chose to create a similar image with Zombie Boy because the visual portrayal of the skull goes along with the theme of the tattoo artwork decorating his “human canvas”. The women in the photographs are also covered in real tattoos, and were cast based on their position in the skull. In the actual magazine cover, you’ll notice the girls are wearing underwear.
With Rebel Ink being carried in stores, and this shot being intended for the cover, we needed the models to have some kind of clothing on… Now, Obviously the better of these shots is the nude version because the underwear, even though its flesh toned, is a little distracting. Not only does it cover up their tatoos, but it creates breaks in the otherwise continuous natural lines of the human body. So, I shot a version with clothing, and one without, then used the plates to make two versions of the same image. The reason behind this multi purposed. One reason was so the client could have the nude image to use in other places such as their website, and the other being I wanted the less distracting version for my own portfolio.
When creating these images, another reference I took from classic artwork was the “memento mori“. You may notice a skull hidden in the corner of some of the images. Many of the early painters who inspire my work implemented this type of symbolism in their own paintings. By placing a skull or another object hidden in the image, the artist is reminding the viewer to be mindful of their mortality. Literally translated, Memento mori means “remember your mortality.” I wanted to utilize this in my own images because you often hear people talking about the permanence of tattoos in a negative context. Bringing this extra skull into the image was my reminder that, like the rest of our bodies, the tattoos will fade.
If you’re wondering how these images were created, you can watch "Zombie Boy Magazine Photoshoot" on my tutorial site, LearnFromJoeyL.com. It's an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the studio lighting and other technical elements that went into these photographs.
Publication: Rebel Ink Magazine March 2013 Issue
Creative Direction: Paul Gambino at Enoble Media
Zombie Boy / Rick Genest Official Site: http://www.rickgenest.com
Female Models: Adrian Louise, Kat Kalashnikov, Sailor Mary, Lindsay Hibbard, Kleio Valentien, Erica Savage,
Casting Director: Steve Prue
Assistants: Cory Jenkins, Jesse Korman, Dave Krysl, Luke Fontana, Oscar Zabala
Behind the Scenes: James Zanoni
Skin / Hair Retoucher: Pratik Naik
ADD A COMMENT (40)
Justin Van Leeuwen // March 14, 2013 04:51
Crazy good as always Joey. You could have just left it at the lead image and I'd have spent hours figuring it out. But you went and gave us a whole blog post. I feel spoiled.
David Newland // March 14, 2013 04:57
A very unique model for sure ! Interesting background too - but it works well.
Incredible amounts of detail and loving the sheer amount of tonality captured here.
Great job !
Kailash Gyawali // March 14, 2013 05:29
superb shoot, get to learn so many things from you Joey, keep it up brother, best wishes for you
Jon Page // March 14, 2013 05:32
Incredible work. It's amazing to me how you are able to depart from your normal/regular subjects yet still retain your signature style.
On another note, the GoPro on top of the PhaseOne - are we getting some footage from the shoot?!
Paul-Antoine // March 14, 2013 06:43
Great images. This guy is mesmerizing. He is memento mori himself. Surprised you didn't include yourself in the image like DalÃ did ;-)
Swade // March 14, 2013 08:39
Is your assistant Dave Krysl from Colorado?
admin // March 14, 2013 10:46
Yes it is!
Sean Gannon // March 14, 2013 13:38
Stunning, just stunning images. The first one is world class!
Wayne Shyduik // March 14, 2013 15:30
The shading on the nude figures skull is sublime!
Vishnu Rajendran Amboo // March 14, 2013 18:52
Wow.. just amazing...
Leonardo // March 14, 2013 18:59
Fucking amazing! So sublime and real!
Chris Nemes // March 14, 2013 19:44
I personally think your composition looks more "skully" than the original. The proportions are closer to a real skull and the overall look is more angular.
Emphasizing the cheekbones with a simple flexing from the hips in the models makes all the difference.
Very nice job!
James Hole // March 14, 2013 21:11
Stunning images man, look forward to the bts video. Are sets like this hand painted and built specifically for each shoot?
admin // March 14, 2013 21:30
This is the pre-existing faux finish wall at Ten Ton Studio. I chose the studio for this wall alone! http://www.tentonstudio.com
Mark Blundell // March 14, 2013 23:37
Fantastic work as always. I especially like the group shot, Zombie Boy looks a little vulnerable to me, his harem subservient to him, yet empowered. To me its a very strong and subtle image.
I shall look forward to the BTS very much.
Aaron // March 15, 2013 06:38
Your lighting & vision is CRAZY! I'm constantly inspired by your work!
James Hole // March 15, 2013 12:22
Thanks, love the look!
Agamemnon // March 16, 2013 20:00
Sambagpula È›Ã¢È›e È™i cur. What gift photography is.
Luca Zizioli // March 17, 2013 17:48
WOW congratulations Joey! It's fantastic!
simone carter // March 18, 2013 05:00
these are insanely and crazily cool - I love love love Salvador Dali and surrealism in general. These images speak to me.
Zombie Boy @ Rebel Ink Magazine 3æœˆè™Ÿå°é¢äººç‰© // March 18, 2013 12:17
[...] Source: joeyl [...]
Nick // March 19, 2013 09:01
I am so hyper about hearing your new tutorial!
sander // March 21, 2013 00:40
wow great! i like the pica's. I like this style
Greats Sander from the Netherlands
Mariela // March 27, 2013 00:49
This is amazing! Love your work!
Dan Speicher // April 15, 2013 19:43
Absolutely Stunning! Nice job using a concept but making it your own!
brian // May 02, 2013 15:47
u made him pose like a female in some of those shots
Nikolay Mirchev // May 03, 2013 03:28
Very interesting concept and lighting. I really enjoy your approach to the lighting for this series of images, it has a very gentle touch over your objects with very smooth falloff which kind of wraps around the models.
It is a such a pleasure seeing your work!!!!
Pedro moreno // May 05, 2013 19:03
Increible... excelente trabajo Joey... I love this portraits... Thank you for sharing it with us!!!
Pedro from Vigo, Spain
jesus // June 01, 2013 15:29
waiting for that tutorial, thanks . you are the best.
dale pierce // June 16, 2013 05:48
It seems all the adjectives to describe this series are taken!lol the images are so powerful. the trick for me is to stop trying to figure out the technical stuff,and just allow myself to feel.has "jaw dropping" been taken?
Jan // June 23, 2013 11:50
Man... I am totally facinated - the expression in the photos with the scull is so stunning. Really love it
Gabriel // July 22, 2013 09:36
You have done Dali's work justice. Bravo
Jess Bothma // November 19, 2013 00:04
Wow... as a photography student and an avid fan of Rick Genest - this was a Christmas prezzie :P Keep up your amazing work and I look forward to seeing more :)
Des liens pour le week-end « AurÃ©lien Calonne Photos AurÃ©lien Calonne Photos // November 23, 2013 16:22
[...] CCLine et son univers magique, le tout en utilisant du vieux matÃ©riel. Joey L. nous emmÃ¨ne dans l’univers de Zombie Boy. Des danseuses de ballet dans les rues de New York. Les paysages humains surrÃ©els d’Angelo [...]
Zombie Boy shoot by Joey L. | Vanishing Tattoo Blog // March 19, 2014 07:44
[…] Photographer Joey L. use a classic image from Salvador Dali as inspiration for his latest shoot with Zombie boy Ric for Rebel Ink Magazine and the results are outstanding. It’s not easy to create a new image of one of the most photographed tattooed models but Joey L managed to. Not only that but he’s also willing to share his secrets of what it take to create cover worthy tattoo photography. Check out the teaser for his tutorial above or see more results from the shoot over on his blog. […]
Brian Davis // November 07, 2014 21:00
Damn! This is incredible. I love how you take a classic photo, do a modern remake, then take the dial up to 11. Sick work.
Adam // May 21, 2015 22:43
you are a bad ass!
JM // October 31, 2015 06:06
Your photo inspired by In Voluptate Mors is fantastic.......except for the huge fake boobs of the model on top. It's like....ahh...beautiful bodies, beautifully rendered....look at the sensuous lines.....EEK!!! What the hell are those SPEED BUMPS doing there?
Seriously. Those implants sticking WAY out there totally ruin an otherwise brilliant photo.
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Marc // August 07, 2018 13:58
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