It was the film G-Dog, a documentary about a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries, the most successful gang intervention and rehabilitation program in the US, that served as inspiration for photographer Steven Burton‘s book project Skin Deep.

Burton photographed heavily-inked ex-gang members and digitally removed their tattoos using Photoshop. Arranged side by side, the result was jarring and emotional for the subjects, most of whom haven’t seen themselves without tattoos in decades.

Skin Deep not only explores the effects of tattoos on ex-gang members, but also the social stigma it carries. “By removing the tattoos, I thought people might be inspired to pay attention and listen to the stories of how the Homeboys are fighting for a better life, and hopefully change their perspective,” says Burton. The book project is currently on Kickstarter – go show your support now.

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