Electrifying body art - Ja one of Joel Alvarez's favourite places to apply skill
Using nothing but black electrical tape, Miami-raised entrepreneur Joel Alvarez has made a thriving business out of doing intricate art on nude models. The Black Tape Project has been around for 10 years, providing Alvarez with the opportunity to travel to over 35 countries.
Alvarez, who had been experimenting with photography in 2008, said the project started with the need to do a one-off design for a photo shoot. "At first, it was an accident, one that turned into constantly learning how to perfect the way taping was done, and now, it's an artistic movement that has turned into a body-art genre," Alvarez told The Gleaner.
The tape artist/photographer keeps his eyes trained on the model, taking inspiration from the natural contours of the female's body, and then decides what the next design will be.
In a few fast-paced years, Alvarez was able to sell his body-taping service to clubs around Miami that appealed to the wider entertainment arena and everywhere else from small parties and fashion shows to music festivals inviting the artist to do live designs. Following the growth of interest in the art, Alvarez added a variety of tape colours and designs.
Alvarez soon made his way to Jamaica to explore the landscape and, of course, the nightlife, finding himself on the island's western end. He ended up at one of the country's biggest adult playgrounds - Hedonism in Negril. This is the sixth year Alvarez has been collaborating with the resort, which is the kick-off location for another project that he has dubbed the Paradise Challenge. "It is an annual event which brings models and photographers together from around the world to shoot an unlimited amount of images. While doing so, participants get to experience the culture and network," explains Alvarez.
Paradise Challenge is used to raise awareness of Mango Hall Primary School in St James. "The school is in a horrible condition, but the team involved wants to first provide the facilities with electricity, and there is a call centre in Montego Bay that is willing to cover the light bill once it is connected to the city's power," Alvarez said.
The next Jamaican staging, the only 'open' challenge that allows the public to join the models and photographers, will take place from September 16-22 before the challenge continues in Hawaii, Ibiza and Spain.
The dancehall-reggae culture is another space that artist is gradually engaging as he also did live taping at the Dream Weekend events. Having already worked with international recording artistes and disc jockeys, including Rick Ross and Afrojack, as well as designing tape swimwear for Miami Swim Week, Alvarez is up for any challenge the local talent has to offer. "Jamaica has a special place in my heart. In my 10 years of taping, I have done the most designs on models on the island, more than any other place in the world - about 25 to 30 models at one time during the challenge," he said. "I only recently branched out into the local entertainment scene during the carnival season for the Xodus band, and my mind was blown."