Dennis Tesch: Tattooed Photographer of Tattooed People

Based in Hamburg, Germany, Dennis Tesch is living his dream of photographing his favorite bands and getting tattooed along the way! Dennis shared some of his fantastic photos with Voodoo Tattoo Magazine and told us about his own tattoo collection.

Dennis Tesch self portrait

Dennis Tesch self portrait

Voodoo Tattoo Magazine: What was your first tattoo and how old were you when you got it?
Dennis Tesch: I got my first tattoo on my 17 birthday. It was a Celtic sun on my right shoulder blade.

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Dennis with his guitar

VTM: Can you tell us a bit about some of your other tattoos, who did them and where, what are some of the stories behind them?
DT: I have different styles of tattoos, but 95% of them have a meaning that’s very important to me. My favourite tattoo is the name of my daughter Tara, she tattooed it on my chest herself at the age of 4. It was one of my favourite days ever. She also tattooed both of the figures on my feet.

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Dennis, the day his daughter tattooed him

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Dennis’ daughter tattoos his feet

DT: My chestpiece shows praying skeletons, one with longer hair (my past), one with shorter hair (my present and future), and an hourglass with a skull in it (time is running out, don’t waste it and believe in what you do).

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Dennis Tesch chestpiece detail

DT: I just got a new tattoo on the sides of my fingers of my left hand, “if – you don’t – live for – something”; next week I’ll get “you will die for nothing” on the fingers of my right hand.

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Dennis Tesch finger tattoos

DT: These were tattooed by my lovely girlfriend Brini Branus, thanks my dear! It was her second tattoo ever, and well done on this uncomfortable spot. She also did a little flower on my hand and also the “Pshhh…” tattoo on my left forefinger, which means “stop talking shit” or “be quiet”.
These are very important tattoos for me, they will always remind me that whenever you are having a bad time, there is always a reason to live. In my case, the tattoo belongs to my daughter, who is always giving me the power to look forward, to look to a good future.
I also have a cross on my right middle finger, which shows my “Faith”. I will get a heart on my left middle finger, so if I put my both middle fingers up, it shows “love god”. My left middle finger shows 3 points, 2 above, one below. It means “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil”, but also: don’t look away from bad things, don’t talk shit or bad stuff about people, don’t listen to or believe bad things that other people say. On the right heel of hand you can read, “love”, on the left, “hate”.

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Dennis Tesch portrait

DT: My right elbow shows a spider web, which doesn’t really have a meaning to me, but I included a butterfly, as in, the spider web caught one. There are some nautical stars beside the butterfly, as if he is looking at/flying towards them, which means: you sometimes feel caught, caught in things in life, like love or a job, but there is always a way out, freedom, hence the nautical stars.

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Dennis with girlfriend Brini

DT: On the inside of my right arm I have a simple sketch tattoo of Johnny Cash, my favourite musician. The inside of my left arm shows an angel fighting against the devil on my right arm. (Good vs. Bad, and the good ones win.)
Another tattoo shows me as a caricature/portrait with two different masks, where I’m holding one in front of my face, the guy who is always in a good mood, making jokes and happy all time, and in my right hand I am holding the other mask, a sensible/sad one, that shows my other side of my personality.

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Danny Leal of Upon a Burning Body, photographed by Dennis Tesch

DT: My throat tattoo, not yet finished, shows a camera, including a pyramid with an all-seeing eye in the lens. On my left hand I have the same pyramid and eye symbol with the emblem of Hamburg (my fav city and the place where I’ve lived for the past 7 years) and an anchor around it, and on my right hand I have a third pyramid with an all-seeing eye and the emblem of the city Oldenburg, my birthplace, with a steering wheel around it. So, all three pyramids form one big pyramid, from my neck to my left to my right hand and back to my neck.

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Alessandro B. of Strength Approach, photographed by Dennis Tesch

DT: Another tattoo on my right arm shows The Boondock Saints main characters, standing on a pile of skulls, beside a bloody celtic cross. Above the cross is heaven, with a religious angel and the moon with clouds. Also above the cross is the word “Aequtias” (Latin for “justice”) and under the cross is the word “Veritas” (Latin for “truth”). This tattoo is a little tribute to the movie The Boondock Saints — I think most people know this movie, about two vigilate rebels who kill lot of bad people “in the name of god” to make a better world. (I wish I could be one of them, in real life, haha.)

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Model: Janine Billet-Doux, photographed by Dennis Tesch

DT: I am still in the process of covering the tribal tattoo on my right arm with a kraken who breaks down a lighthouse with his tentacles. There’s still a lot to do ’cause the tribal is very hard to cover up, but it’s already looking better than my tattoo artist and I ever thought it would.

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Live photo of Devil In Me by Dennis Tesch

DT: I got “Mum & Dad” tattooed on my feet, which shows my gratitude and love for my parents. My right ankle shows an old-school seaman skull with a cigarette in his mouth. I got this tattoo hen I quit smoking after 13 years, but I started smoking again a year and a half later. So, this tattoo was pointless, haha.
And I tattooed an anchor on my right toe myself.
So, that’s a little description of my most important tattoos, more to come ASAP for sure.

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Tattoos by Merle of Blue Spark Tattoo, photo by Dennis Tesch

VTM: When did you first become interested in being a professional photographer? Were you always interested in music and band photography?
DT: I became interested when I saw some concert and band photos of some of my fav bands that I used to listened to in the past, which were taken by Cindy Frey, a well-known photographer from Belgium. I think it was over 7 years ago, as I was 22/23 years old at the time.

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Live shot of Trivium by Dennis Tesch

DT: My wish was that I would take some concert and band photos of my fav bands, too. And it came true! I didn’t study photography or take any photography classes. Everything that I know I taught myself. I asked friends who are photographers and read a lot of articles about photography, lenses and cameras in magazines, on the internet, basically wherever I could. It was has mostly been a “learning by doing” education. The best advice I could give is take a camera, whatever it is, and go outside and take some unique pictures!

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Model: Tschiggy, photographed by Dennis Tesch

VTM: What are some of the things that inspire you to take photos of bands and the people you see at shows? What is it that makes it exciting for you?
DT: Like I said, Cindy Frey and my dream to take pics of bands and artists that I like are what inspired me. Sadly, I have to say that times changed. The people at concerts (aside from hardcore shows) are mostly fucked up these days. I really hate those people who are doing stupid “ninja moves”, like windmills or high kicks. “Fighting invisible ninjas” at non-hardcore shows is no cool thing, it’s dangerous and makes the shows uncomfortable [for the rest of the crowd]. In the past there were nice pogo pits, where nobody get injured, but these days, you see those stupid kids and also “old school people” fighting invisible ninjas at metalcore gigs, too. It sucks.

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Aaron Matts of Betraying the Martyrs, photographed by Dennis Tesch

VTM: Who are some of the people in these photos and how did you meet them?
DT: I have been lucky to work with some great artists and bands. I contacted them directly through facebook or through their management.
My first live concert ever was a gig of As I Lay Dying, still my favourite metalcore band. After I published my concert photos of them on my facebook page, someone at their label saw my pictures and showed them to the band. They liked them so much that they published them in their book which was included in The Powerless Rise Limited Deluxe Edition Box Set. (Thanks to Kelli M. Of Metal Blade Records and to As I Lay Dying, again).

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Dennis Tesch photos in As I Lay Dying box set booklet

DT: Some of the most important artists/bands for me include Tim from As I Lay Dying, JJ of Deez Nuts, Danny from Upon a Burning Body, Baptiste and Aaron from Betraying the Martyrs. Those are people/bands that I really like and still listen to. But times have changed, and now I am listing more to other music, which I also listened to before, but the time of Metal-and Hardcore is over, as is [the time of] taking photos of them.

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JJ Peters of Deez Nuts, photographed by Dennis Tesch

DT: It’s not always a sunny island and there are always a few big-headed artists, management and ungrateful musicians, and it’s very hard business. It’s hard to earn a bit of money with it here in Germany, where there are no music magazines for those genres.

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Aaron Matts of Betraying the Martyrs, photographed by Dennis Tesch

DT: So I am going back to portrait photography of “normal” people or brand/label photography, back to the roots! The people in the “Hamburg Rock n Roll” series are people and friends from Hamburg who have a rocking look/attitude. Some of them are tattoo artists, piercing artists or just “normal” people.

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Model: Sascha Behrend, photographed by Dennis Tesch

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Tattoos by Merle of Blue Spark Tattoo, photo by Dennis Tesch

VTM: Your photos have been featured in music magazines and promos for independent clothing brands, what were some of your favorite projects or ones that you’re especially proud of?
DT: There are some great clothing labels that I took pictures for and who really support me. Brands like Määd Mit Schnorres, Magnum Reload, Black Veins Clothing and my favourite label, Izaiah-Proclaim God’s Name. Check them out!

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Dennis’ girlfriend Brina, photographed for Määd Mit Schnorres clothing

DT: Another one of my favourite times being published as band/concert photographer [besides the As I Lay Dying box set photos] was a campaign poster for PETA2. They used one of my promo photos of the vegan musician, JJ Peters from the band Deez Nuts. The poster is available at PETA2 and at the many festivals and concerts that PETA2 supports. Thanks again to Hendrik T. of PETA2 and JJ Peters.

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PETA2 poster featuring JJ Peters of Deez Nuts, photographed by Dennis Tesch

DT: But I am also proud of my other published photos in magazines like Australian Hysteria Magazine, Blunt Magazine, a “Photograph of the Month” in Skin Deep Magazine, Revolver Magazine, Sick Drummer Magazine, some amazing magazines for the metal- and hardcore scene. And [I’m also proud of] photos that bands have published as posters, flyers, etc.

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Aaron Matts of Betraying the Martyrs, photo by Dennis Tesch

DT: So, I think, for me as non-professional photographer, with only a small cam and no other equipment, I achieved a lot in this scene and I am fucking proud about it.

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Model: Viki, photo by Dennis Tesch

VTM: What are your plans for your next tattoo?
DT: My next plans for tattoos are finishing my tattoos on the fingers of my right hand, my chestpiece and neckpiece and my tribal-cover up.

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sketch of Dennis Tesch by his friend Marie

Big thanks to Dennis for sharing his story and photos!
–Miss Psychobilly Bass