In America, we take for granted our ability to openly get tattoos and show off our work to the world. In South Korea, tattooing is illegal and artists need to ply their trade very carefully, keeping the business underground. Even with the added challenges he faces in his homeland, Camoz is one of the industry’s rising stars. We sat down with the thriving artist to understand how he came up in South Korea’s secret tattoo community and how he plans to take the world by storm.
Take us through your experience getting your first tattoo and how it led you to become a tattoo artist.
It was a small tribal tattoo on my ankle and I only had two things in mind. One, “Oh, this is gonna hurt,” and two, “I’m gonna be so cool after this.” After that I thought tattoos were pretty cool. There’s something special about making the client feel good after getting it.
What is the tattoo community like in Seoul and how does it compare to other cities you’ve visited?
Doing anything with a needle on skin is illegal in South Korea. There are numerous talented tattoo artists here and we see each other through social media, just like the rest of the world. Since it’s still considered very taboo and the industry isn’t protected from the law, one big difference from other places is that we’re a lot more cautious within the tattoo community. We definitely have our guards up with each other compared to other countries.
Once we’re able to safely travel again, where do you plan to tattoo?
Since tattooing is illegal in my own country, living here as a tattoo artist is quite difficult. It’s also hard to be respected in this profession. If I do get the chance I would like to work in America. With the trips I’ve taken, I’ve felt a big difference in tattoo culture and the tattoo artists also have a very different vibe. I would like to work in an environment where I can be respected and keep my head up with pride.
What’s your favorite tattoo style to create in and why?
I’m a fan of new school tattoos. I liked that there are no rules to this style. The colors, creativity and breaking of the rules was very appealing to me. But at one point, I felt that my work was looking a lot like other new school artists and I felt confined to a new set of rules. These days, I try to abandon the rules in all forms. I love color and I’m having fun coming up with pieces that express unconventional things with full freedom.
Do you think you’ll stick to one style or continue to create tattoos in a variety of styles?
I think I will continue to create tattoos in a variety of styles. I limited my creativity and ability by defining myself as a new school tattoo artist. My inspirations are continuously changing and if changing up my style means I can express myself more and have fun, then I will keep on doing that.
Many of your tattoos combine realism with children’s drawings. How did you come up with this idea?
I’ve been drawing all my life and I was an art major at uni, so even when I was learning to tattoo there was this imperative obsession to strive for perfection. However, I just wanted to let loose all of a sudden and get away from the idea of perfection. I also wanted to go back to my roots, to a time when I felt innocent and liberated while drawing. These tattoos are a mix of Camoz as a kid and Camoz as a tattoo artist.
When you’re not tattooing, we see that you enjoy making caricatures of your fellow tattooers. How did you start doing this?
I was never a very social kid. My way of making friends was through art. I would always draw my friends, and making them laugh through my drawings made me happy. I don’t think I started drawing caricatures wanting something in return, it was just my form of communicating and making friends.