"I think tattooing is a relational art. I don't agree with people who call me a tattoo artist because I don't think it’s something that depends only on me," says Juan Carlos Mendoza.
Mendoza is a Nicaraguan artist who has built a client base and business from his creative tattoo designs.
"I started making tattoos five years ago. It was a strategy to make me economically independent of my father," he says. "I could draw, and I just had to learn the technique of tattooing."
The geometric shapes, dotwork and vivid colors in Mendoza's designs reflect his background in modern art.
"I built my style from my training in contemporary art, and I adapt it a little to tattooing," he says. "For example, a line and a point can suggest a lot of things. It can suggest directions, vectors and can be interpreted in many ways. But then it's more for the aesthetic of the body — like how can this design be adapted to the body, and how does it create a language with the body's movement?"
Mendoza worked in a tattoo shop in Managua, the country's capital. But now, he's self-employed, and clients travel to his home in Matagalpa.
"Right now I'm living in the first house where I lived the first four years of my life," he says. "So I think coming here now is like to close the cycle and to share all of my background with people who come here."
By working for himself, Mendoza says he can focus more on the quality of his craft and building relationships with clients.
"I realized this was my line of work, and to do it, I needed a context, and a context with the conditions that people can open up a little," he says. "So in this space, people have come with all the intensity of a more active city — like the capital or another country — and they come thinking they're going to get a tattoo. And later, we rest, we go for a walk by the river, we talk. I've had cases of people who totally change their idea of what they want just by being in another space, just by being here.