Skin Deep / by Paul Choy

Madison is not someone you are likely to miss in a crowd.

When I met her, she was sitting outside the barber shop where she worked, enjoying the Toronto sunshine. With a huge smile on her face and a shock of blond hair on her head, there was something about her which made her immediately stand out against the suburban backdrop. Of course it is quite possible the tattoos running the entire length of her arms, chest and neck, as much as the smile on her face which helped her to stand out.

"I've always been judged by my tattoos", she told me, "I have never been in trouble in my life, but people still ask if I have been to prison. The truth is I just like tattoos."

We are all guilty of subconsciously judging the people we meet, often based on nothing more than the colour of their skin or the clothes that they wear. Sometimes those judgements have little impact on our interaction with others, and other times they have terrible consequences. And yet, we also all know these differences between us are literally only skin deep. How ridiculous it is, in the 21st Century, that we are still all so guilty of making these judgements.

Madison was one of the most interesting and friendly people I met, as I walked around the streets of Canada. Polite, talkative and happy for me to photograph her portrait, despite only meeting me moments before. And yet many of the people she meets still make snap decisions about her based on nothing more than the art she wears on her skin.

As the old saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover, a lesson we could all do with remembering more often, in our increasingly divided world.