Family Focus

Charlotte youth program debuts documentary ‘Behind the Ink’

“Behind the Ink” is a first-of-its-kind film put together by Charlotte students and creatives with the mission of exploring untold narratives of those who are inked. The documentary will debut Saturday, Sept. 25, in Charlotte.

The documentary was produced and shot in Charlotte by Creating Exposure Through The Arts.

Creating Exposure Through The Arts is a nonprofit designed to educate and mentor youth by creating opportunities in the arts.

“Behind the Ink” was born out of a student-led photo exhibit launched over a decade ago.

The documentary explores tattoos, and the interviews discuss why some choose to use their bodies as canvases.

Those profiled include Anthony Morrow, a Charlotte Latin School alumnus and former NBA star. A tattoo enthusiast, he shares his knowledge of the art form and personal stories of his tattoo journey during the 32-minute documentary.

“The impact of having students work on a documentary and have their work showcased in galleries and the documentary is an extreme accomplishment,” said Mark Pendergrass, CEA founder and executive director of “Behind the Ink.” “It’s impactful for the students, instructors and also the participants who probably didn’t think when they got a tattoo it would be showcased in a documentary.”

People of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds reveal stories, ideas, joy and pain behind their ink.

“Behind the Ink” gets up close and personal with individuals whose body art ranges from playful motifs to deep memorials for lost loved ones — all with distinct purposes and meanings.

In addition, over 30 images will be showcased in a wall mural on the Charlotte Uptown.

“It’s amazing to realize that something we’ve been doing for 10 years just as a curriculum, taking pictures, learning photography, interviewing people has become a living documentary and huge exhibit on a public building,” Pendergrass said.

Accompanying the release of the docuseries is the “Behind the Ink” coffee table book.

Subjects from the documentary and other notable faces — such as Dutchess Lattimore, tattoo artist and owner of Pretty-N-Ink — will be featured on the pages of the edition with up-close, detailed photos of their canvases.

The book, also shot and conceptualized entirely by CEA instructors and students, contains dozens of photos of diverse subjects along with expressive descriptions of their body art in their own words.

“In a time where art is rarely showcased in schools, it’s important to show another aspect of it…something that’s really personable like sharing people’s stories,” Pendergrass said. “It’s a diverse group: ethnicity, race, age. We are sharing stories of people who don’t look like each other but have that one thing in common.”

“Behind the Ink” merchandise and the coffee table book debuted in spring and can be purchased on Proceeds will go to CEA to build on almost 20 years of teaching students photography, mentorship and empowerment through the arts.

The documentary was recently selected to be featured in the CineOdyssey Film Festival, which showcases diverse, contemporary films and cutting-edge works by filmmakers of color from the African, Caribbean, Latino, Asian, and Native American diasporas, as well as the U.S.

The documentary will show at Victoria Yards, an outdoor venue located at 408 North Tryon Street in uptown, on Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the film begins at 8 p.m. Masks are required.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at

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