The tattooed men in Rhys’ life: August

FebruaryPHOTO BY COLIN RIGLEY

August: Damian Camacho, barista, DJ, poet

We like to joke that every time I talk to Damian I ask him to pose shirtless for a photo, which is funny, but it’s also sort of true. Last spring I asked Damian to pose in a Paradise Lost-inspired shoot as Lucifer engaged in a physical struggle against god for the newspaper’s annual Best Of issue.

Here I was, less than six months later, asking him to once again pose shirtless for a pinup calendar we were making for our coworker Rhys, who he barely knows.

I’ll admit we were running out of tattooed men. We’d already used tattooed women, and we were starting to scratch our heads for tattooed people Rhys might know. Then we realized that Rhys sees Damian almost every day, since Damian is (or actually was) a barista at BlackHorse, where the New Times editorial crew gets its coffee most days. What’s more, Damian was actually the person who told Colin and I about Jillian Wefald, the tattoo artist who eventually did work on our arms, and the artist who eventually tattooed Ryan. So Damian would be the fourth model featuring Jillian’s work in the calendar.

I sheepishly messaged Damian explaining the project and asking him to participate, and he readily agreed. We’d decided that we wanted to play up his profession as a barista, featuring him shirtless blowing steam from the espresso machine onto his chest. It was by far the most graphic of our concepts, and I’d like to think that was because we were becoming bolder as the photo shoots progressed, though it might also have been because Damian, frankly, looks more like a model than the rest of us.

Damian was reluctant to schedule the shoot where he worked so I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a café or someone with an espresso machine willing to let us use it for a photo shoot. My friend Estelle Steynberg said we could use the Steynberg Gallery—an art gallery and café just a mile or so from the office where I work. We scheduled it within just a few days and before we all knew it we were at the café photographing Damian without his shirt.

It was the end of the day and the baristas were trying to sweep and mop and organize their workspace. I felt sort of bad that we were potentially delaying them, but it was also really funny because they responded so practically to the situation. “Well, there’s this shirtless guy blowing steam on his chest; I guess I’ll just sweep around him.”

Plus, I love the reaction this photo gets. Inevitably, the viewer gasps and then sort of chuckles. It’s unexpected. Exactly like the calendar itself.

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