Reka Nyari is a New York City-based Finnish photographer who aims to transcend traditional ideals of beauty, embrace self-identity, and promote gender empowerment through her striking series, Ink Stories. Nyari's lens captures the raw beauty and diverse narratives of tattooed women, delving deep into the skin as a canvas that tells powerful stories of struggle, resilience, and transformation, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.

Nyari's Ink Stories unfolds as a visual tapestry made by a series of intimate photographs that intricately weave the tales of resilient women who have faced adversity head-on. The series challenges conventional norms of female representation, inviting viewers to witness the empowering journey of each protagonist through their nudity and tattooed bodies. In these photographs, Nyari uses the art of scarification, both metaphorically and literally, to explore the profound connection between personal empowerment and the creation of a strengthened self-image.

Photograph of Reka Nyari. Image courtesy of Reka Nyari’s website.

One of Nyari's subjects, Ginzilla, embodies defiance against societal expectations. Born into a conservative Japanese family, she found solace and rebellion in the intricate tattoos that now adorn her body. Her skin becomes a narrative, illustrating symbols of strength – tigers, wolves, and dragons – challenging the norms imposed upon her. In Ink Stories, ink becomes a declaration of personal identity, an empowering defiance against conformity.

In Valkyrie Ink, Nyari unfolds the compelling story of Eowyn, a woman who turned her body into a shield against the emotional and physical scars of her past. The tattoos become not just adornments but armor, a visible testament to her strength and resistance. Nyari captures the essence of Eowyn's bravery, portraying tattoos as marks of insubordination to trauma, a form of reclaiming one's body and narrative.

Valkyrie Ink by Reka Nyari, portrait of Eowyn. Image courtesy of Drago Publisher.

Her piece, Mother Ink, introduces Leah, whose journey includes trauma, abuse, and again, the transformative power of tattoos. Leah, portrayed in scenes reminiscent of the Virgin Mary motif, undergoes a profound healing process. Her tattoos serve as cathartic creations, transforming darkness into light as she journeys into motherhood. Nyari skillfully captures the lush opulence of scenes that embody love, healing, and her devotion to her child.

The most recent addition to the Ink Stories series introduces Charlotte in Blooming Ink. Struggling with extreme shyness and social anxiety, Charlotte undergoes a metamorphosis through her tattoos. Nyari's lens beautifully documents the intricate patterns covering Charlotte's entire body, illustrating how tattoos became a catalyst for personal growth and empowerment.

Mother Ink by Reka Nyari, portrait of Leah. Image courtesy of Drago Publisher.

In her solo show, Punctured Ink at Fremin Gallery, Nyari takes her exploration a step further by physically scarifying her photographs. Using a variety of tools, she punctures botanical-like patterns into the images, creating a unique dialogue within each piece. This act mirrors the tribal tradition of scarification, a form of tattooing that does not use ink but deliberately scars the skin to create patterns when they heal. Scarification in tribal traditions signifies a rite of passage and a transformative journey, much like Nyari's process that underlines the permanence and symbolism associated with tattoos.

Installation view of Blooming by Reka Nyari at Blackbook New York, portrait of Charlotte. Image courtesy of Drago Publisher.

Reka Nyari's Ink Stories stands as a testament to the transformative power of art in storytelling, gender empowerment, and the celebration of diverse feminine narratives. Through her lens, tattoos become more than ink on skin; they become visual narratives of strength, resilience, and self-empowerment. Nyari's work aligns seamlessly with the fight for gender equality, breaking down stereotypes and fostering a deeper understanding of the complex facets of body art. 

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