Body painting: origins and photography

Body painting is a form of art that places the body at the center. The latter is considered a white canvas that needs to be painted. 

Guido Fuà’s shot


It’s an ancient technique discovered recently, but it was actually already present in tribal population, used in religious rituals, ceremonial, hunting and battles. Indeed Native Americans were called redskins because they painted their faces with red and white stripes. This could have had various meanings: rites of passage, propitiatory purposes, a sign of belonging or to frighten the enemy. It also had practical and useful uses in everyday life: insect repellent and protection from the weather. The colors chosen also represented certain personality characteristics. For example:

RED: courage, danger, passion, challenge, energy, warmth

WHITE: purity

BLACK: mystery, power, death

BLUE: tranquility, calm, friendship

YELLOW: hope, intelligence, joy

GREEN: healing, life

VIOLET: superiority, luxury, wisdom

GRAY: knowledge, security

Guido Fua’s shot

In the 1960s, the body painting took on a new meaning, symbol of hippie movements often used by young people as a manifesto of freedom and reappropriation of their bodies. While since the 1990s there has been a return to the roots, with body art characterized by hennè, a substance typically used by Indians.

Later it spread to other areas such as dance, art, movies, fashion, advertising and events. Especially in the entertainment world it’s necessary to recreate contexts, scenarios, and characters. One of the most famous bodyartists is Maurizio Fruzzetti who parades his works together with models creating real performances.

Guido Fuà’s shot

The relationship with photography

“Photography is a complementary art to body painting in that it can capture the moment. Since body painting is a temporary decoration, it survives only a few hours on the model’s body. From the time the color is first applied to the completion of the work, several hours may pass, but classic body painting colors are not adequate to remain on the skin for more than a day. Photography captures moment by moment the steps in which the work is created, and immortalizes model and work when the work is finished, thus making body painting immutable over time.”

In photography, body painting is a great idea when you want to change and give more particularity to your shots. Just as Antonio Gibotta did, to document Native Americans and migrants. The result was a series of images of models characterized by flou colors photographed by UV light.

Discover Guida Fuà‘s shots about body painting and visit Eikona blog!

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