The face tattoo is one of the rarest; it is also London-based photographer Mark Leaver’s favorite. Intrigued by what motivates people to opt for such controversial ink jobs and by the intricate designs themselves, he began a series aptly titled “Tattoos.”

“Historically, facial tattoos have had a huge amount of taboos around them,” Leaver says on his website. “People associate facial tattoos with a number of negative things including suicide rates, criminality and depression. This couldn’t be further from the case now. Facial tattoos represent creativity, aesthetics, transformation and spirituality.”

Many of Leaver’s subjects were seeking a “radical transformation,” and a facial tattoo became a “mask.” For others, facial tattoos were a way to rebel against the system. But behind each inked face is human vulnerability. This striking series presents the viewer with the challenge of looking beyond the body art to see the individual.

RELATED: The Greatest Celebrity Face Tattoos
RELATED: 50 Great Tattoo Artists You (Probably) Haven’t Heard Of

[via HuffPost]