New documentary D’Inked takes viewers into brave new world of laser tattoo removal

laser tattoo removalMany in reentry are determined to get their unwanted tattoos removed, so they can find employment and start a new life. But what’s the process really like?

In their recently released documentary D’Inked, filmmakers Jacob Tillman and Ben Pierce take viewers on a journey through the world of tattoo removal. They examine the development of laser tattoo removal technology and how it has changed the culture of tattoos.

We meet people who’ve had their tattoos taken off, both professionally and through their own efforts. And some were disasters. Like the guy who attempted to remove his face tattoo with a soldering iron and a woman whose laser mistreatment produced giant sized blisters.

The focus, however, is on Tillman himself – Director Pierce has no tattoos – as he documents his five-year effort to have a full color half sleeve tattoo removed and covered up.

The tattoos that make up the half sleeve are just three of Jacob’s eight tattoos. He had the one on his ring finger taken off without numbing cream so he’d remember the fact that “he’s an idiot and shouldn’t have gotten it done.”

But the main work was the half sleeve, which he said was a mistake from the beginning. “I got the tattoo in 2009-2010. I knew instantly when I got the very last one that I wanted it removed, so in 2011 I started doing research and discovered there weren’t that many places out there (doing removals) at the time.

“After a lot of research, we ended up at Rethink the Ink in Denver with the Quanta laser.” For the next 3-1/2 years Tillman flew to Denver for the 16 treatments required and after that looked for a tattoo artist to do a cover-up. He found that person in San Diego.

In addition to the footage of some of his many treatments, the film includes Interviews with dozens of tattoo artists and laser technology industry leaders. The interviews highlight the fact that tattoo removal is becoming a totally acceptable practice – although for the clients, it’s a long and painful process.

Reasons Tillman and Pierce decided to make D’Inked

So why did they decide to make a documentary?

“There are a lot of reasons,” Tillman says. “I felt if I was going through this I wanted something positive to come out of it. I thought people would see the film and say it’s an incredible transformation.”

He also wants to warn people of the problems that can arise. The people doing tattoo removals can make a mistake and turn the laser up high enough to scar you. And a lot of doctors are using lasers that are for hair removal but turn them up as well, he says.

So you have to be very selective in who you choose to do a removal. “It’s the same process as finding a tattoo artist. You have to look around and find one who will do a good job for you,” Tillman says. “You have to make sure they’re using the proper equipment and have had a lot of clients in the past.”

The two men became so interested in the process of tattoo removal that they both got certified to do the procedures themselves. They took the course at Denver’s A Laser Academy, co-founded by Victor Beyer, who did Tillman’s tattoo removal.

Lessons learned

There were many things that Tillman and Pierce learned from making this movie:

Tillman:  If people are at a crossroads for wanting something removed, the technology has caught up and there is a way to do it. The industry has changed so much, and people are more receptive to it. There are tattoo shops that are also tattoo removal shops so they work hand in hand.

Pierce: We’re both very surprised at how accepting tattoo artists are of tattoo removal. It’s a reversal of what they do. Most of the artists we met – over 30 – have had some sort of removal themselves. They ran out of space on their bodies and wanted to do something different, so they had to remove what was already there. The acceptance of tattoo removal has to start with the artists if it’s going to be acceptable in society.

And the tattoo artists are very approachable. They’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and the culture of tattoos is a culture of love. Every person we met enjoys giving tattoos and getting tattoos. It’s a warm and welcoming culture.

Where to see D’Inked

The film was released on Amazon Prime late last year. It is also on YouTube and will be released on iTunes in June. The filmmakers appeared at the Covellite International Film Festival in Butte, Montana, in September and are applying to participate in more film festivals. They also hope to show D’Inked in many of the cities where they filmed. These include San Diego, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Denver.

If you’re in reentry and would like to have your own tattoos removed, check out the Jails to Jobs national directory of free and low-cost tattoo removal programs to find out if there is one in your areas.

Tattoo artist Jeff Goyette helps others learn tattoo removal

Jeff Goyette, tattoo removal expert.

Jeff Goyette.

Getting anti-social or gang-related tattoos removed can be a first step on the road to employment. And many people appear interested in doing just that, based on the thousands of hits we’ve gotten on the directory of free and low cost tattoo removal programs that is on our website.

In compiling the listings for the website over the past several years, what we’ve discovered is that there aren’t nearly enough of these programs.. Although some states, mainly California, have many programs in all of its major cities, 11 states and the District of Columbia have none at all.

But as the word spreads about the need for this type of program, more people are stepping onboard. Rhode Island is the latest state to be listed in our directory, thanks to Jeff Goyette, a well known tattoo artist who owns Inflicting Ink Tattoo and Removal in Portsmouth, RI, and is a co-founder of and the head instructor at A Laser Academy, which offers courses in tattoo removal.

He’s been a tattoo artist for 25 years and early on developed an interest in tattoo removal as well.

“I ended up getting involved in the tattoo removal industry because so many people were wanting cover-ups,” he said. “We ended up getting to know so much about the tattoo removal process and purchased a laser for tattoo removal in 1998-99.”

“We found there was very little information about this and started looking into the pigments and whether the inks play a major role in why some tattoos were easier to remove than others.“

Goyette became so knowledgeable that he started to do training for customers of  laser device company Quanta USA, and four years ago he opened A Laser Academy in the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo., to train even more people. He also conducts classes at his Rhode Island studio and in Henderson, Nev., a suburb of Las Vegas.

The three-day course covers all aspects of the tattoo removal process, including laser safety, the proper techniques necessary to fire a medical class 4 laser, the types of ink used in tattoos, the proper use of wave lengths, how to perform a proper consultation and post-treatment care.

About 40% of the academy’s students is tattoo artists, 40% is young people looking for new opportunities for employment, and the other 20% is physicians assistants and doctors. Very few of them already have any previous experience with tattoo removal.

As part of his tattoo removal practice, Goyette offers low-priced removals.

“We do special pricing if people really need the help,” he says “We won’t help if someone has an ex girlfriend’s name they want taken off, but if they have Nazi symbols or gang-related tattoos, we’ll do it.”

Goyette once offered pre-release tattoo removal to inmates at a prison and is interested in possibly doing that again, provided he could get some funding to run the laser.

Helping tattoo artists, medical professionals, doctors, nonprofits and others launch free or low-cost tattoo removal programs, including those for pre-release inmates, is something that we at Jails to Jobs are also working on. Our soon-to-be-released Tattoo Removal: Establishing a Free or Low-Cost Community Based Program, A How-to Guide will give those interested the basics. And we hope to secure funding to help create more programs in prisons and elsewhere around the U.S.

If anyone would like more information about our Tattoo Removal: Establishing a Free or Low-Cost Community Based Program, A How-to Guide, please contact us. For those who are interested, it is available on Amazon.