Tribute Ink Exhibition
Tattoos in the Military

Have you ever thought about the stories behind someone’s tattoos? Tribute Ink is a photography exhibition I created with the Royal British Legion to tell to the personal stories of tattoos in the military featuring both serving personnel and veterans from from the British Army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force. Curated in partnership with the National Memorial Arboretum and The Ministry of Defence, Tribute Ink opens to the public on Friday 13th of September on site at the Arboretum in Staffordshire.

It wasn’t always easy hearing the stories behind the tattoos. Some have chosen to have the names of friends who died whilst serving inked into their skin, like Paul Glazebrook who has six large dog tags tattooed across his back, or Matt Tomlinson who has the ten names of those who died along side him during his time in Afghanistan and Iraq permanently in his skin. “Trying to understand the loss of those guys, why it was them, and what it was for, was hard to work through,” says Matt. But I discovered that tattoos have helped many get through their grief and that they are a living form of remembrance always with them.

For others their tattoos are badges of belonging, marks to show their pride in their service, like Tash Kenny who has a beautiful Spitfire plane on her arm, or Michael Bell who is covered neck to toe in tattoos that pay tribute to the Nelson era naval crews.

To create the project we traveled around the UK documenting tattoos in six bases and also photographing at the National Memorial Arboretum. From wading in the waters of Portsmouth Harbour to running through forests and scrambling over helicopters I wanted to capture our forces members in their environments – showing the many varied lives they lead. I hope my pictures can help honour those who serve and encourage others to remember in new ways.

The project has certainly changed my perception of remembrance completely – it doesn’t have to be done in silence on a sombre Sunday, people can remember in a million different ways. Some of the people I photographed have run ultra marathons to commemorate their friends, some have set up charities, many continue serving their country with pride. They all remember those they’ve lost nearly every day, and think back with pride about their time serving.

Massive thanks to Alex Owen and Meredith Sneddon from the Royal British Legion for working with me on this project, it’s been wonderful collaborating with you guys. Huge thanks also to Morgan Evans and the rest of the team at Germaine Walker for their incredible production bringing this project together – I couldn’t have done it without you.

To discover more of the stories from the project visit it’s website:

To visit the exhibition head to the National Memorial Arboretum from the 13th of September to the 1st of December 2019, or catch it on it’s national tour in 2020.
To find out more about where it’s on show click HERE.


First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon - The Sunday Times Magazine - Nicola Sturgeon – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Nicola Sturgeon – The Sunday Times Magazine

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Matt Thomlinson - recipient of Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and Military Cross - Tribute Ink exhibition in London – The National Army Museum - Charlie Clift

Tribute Ink exhibition in London – The National Army Museum

Tribute Ink is open until 17th of April in the National Army Museum in London. Do head on down to see the stories behind the tattoos and to learn about the history of tattoos. Also – if you’re around on the 4th of March we will be holding a special evening event at the NAM – do come on down then to say hello. It’s been such an honour to be involved in this fascinating and moving project, massive thanks to Royal British Legion for asking me to photograph it for them. To see the whole project click here: LINK To find out more about the exhibition head over the the NAM’s website: LINK

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Fora co-founder Katrina Francis – Tortoise

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Dancers Erina Takahashi and James Streeter – The Sunday Times Magazine

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Rob Brydon - The Sunday Times Magazine - Rob Brydon – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Rob Brydon – The Sunday Times Magazine

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Luciana Berger – The Sunday Times Magazine

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John McDonnell - The Sunday Times Magazine - John McDonnell – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

John McDonnell – The Sunday Times Magazine

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Hideo Kojima and Nicolas Winding Refn – BAFTA Photography Collection

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