Friday night it was time to tromp into Philly (dodging raindrops all the way), for the June edition of Philly Fantastic at Moonstone Arts Center (aka Robin’s Bookstore). A damp evening featured Kyle Cassidy, Philadelphia-area photographer and writer, speaking about his current projects.

First up was Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl, a book Kyle found inspiring enough that he worked with Caitlin to create a series of still images: Stills from a movie that never existed. The same photo shoot spawned a book trailer shot by Kyle Cassidy & Brian Siano, who was also in the audience. Kyle showed the trailer–it’s gorgeous and it’s on youtube, go watch it! There was also a slideshow of the stills from the shoot, which may or may not be put an exhibition at some point . . .

Then Kyle showed some of his favorite images from his new book War Paint, and read/told some of the accompanying stories (see my review of the book below).

Outside it rained, and rained more, and hailed. Miraculously, it stopped raining long enough for us to walk the several blocks over to Ruby Tuesdays for dinner and conversation. Also miraculously, I managed to eat there, and not break my diet (I’d been away from the house since noonish, and I was starving!).

War Paint: Tattoo Culture & The Armed Forces
by Kyle Cassidy
Hardcover May 2012
Schiffer Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-7643-4086-4

Over the last few years, I’ve developed an interest in tattoo art (some of you know why). When I saw the publication announcement for War Paint, the concept immediately intrigued me: photos of tattoos on military personnel by one of the best pros around, and the stories behind the art. It’s always interesting to hear why people get the tats they choose.

Publishing the book on Memorial Day really made sense, too. It was already on my list of books to buy “one day”–and it kept moving up. When I realized that Kyle Cassidy was going to be speaking at Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia in just a few weeks, it motivated me to order a copy now–so I could get it inscribed.

In due course War Paint arrived, and I put it down next to the computer to log it in to the library system. Big mistake. The colorful cover images are mesmerizing, enticing you to pick up the book and leaf through it. So I did. I read a few of the stories, and finally put it down and did some work. Then I picked it back up and read some more. The book is positively insidious, sucking you in with beguiling images when you should be working!

Only buy this book if you’re actually interested in reading it, because it will sneak up on you and insist that you look inside. It’s full of well-taken photos paired with fascinating stories–incredible insights into the men and women that defend our country.

It gives the armed forces names and faces and makes them people you know and understand. It makes history personal.

Recommended for anyone who appreciates tattoo art and/or likes hearing “old war stories.” It also makes a lovely gift.