through the lens with Ernie Bustamante | photography & art 12/12/2012

Q: How long are you into photography?
A: I was lucky enough to start my photography journey very early. At 15 years old I would go with my Uncle who himself is a cameraman and photographer for a Hollywood studio. I would watch and learn as he would do photo shoots, film commercials, and all aspects of photography. I am in my 40’s now. So it’s been a while.

Q: What or who got you started in this business?
A: Getting started of course my Uncle was my main inspiration. I mostly did it as a hobby growing up. I decided to take my photography a step further in 2007.

Q: Do you remember your first shoots?
A: As a kid no, I spent most of my time learning and watching. If I did take part in any use of the camera at all it was for someone else. I was taught old school, film and development. Much of what I learned before I even was allowed to take any pictures myself. When I started on my own, my very first shoot was at a cemetery. Creative right? Lol…. But that’s where she wanted to take her pictures at. To be honest I was very grateful that she gave me the opportunity to take some pictures of her. Starting out as a male photographer isn’t easy. Some girls view you as a pervert just wanting to take pictures of girls. So it was a slow start. Luckily I found models willing to let me shoot them in my style and show what I can do. As for the girls that didn’t give me the time of day and say bad things about me, Oh well. Treat everyone with respect. You never know where they will end up.

Q: Do you have any influences that helped you to develop your style?
A: Roy Varga for sure had some influence in me. Not in my style per say, an influence to be different. I would also say many of my friends that are tattoo artist. Starting out my main goal was to take images of tattooed individuals. Seeing a lot of my friends work with so many different styles and genres helps me to create. Not to conform to one style but to be different and always grow.

Q: Your photography is really interesting. It seems like you love to try different scenarios and be unique as possible etc. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery?
A: The individual I am shooting. It is very hard to come up with something different all the time. Creativity can sometimes drive you mad. Lol… But you have to take control and not be afraid to try something new. Even if you think it is simple. When I am shooting someone with tattoos I always want to focus on that. Their artwork makes them who they are and interesting. Many of them, their artwork tells a story. That’s what I hope to capture. I want to tell their story and bring out the individual at the same time. When people come to me wanting to book a photo session one of the first things I ask them is what is their goal for the photo shoot. What is it that they want me to see?

Q: In most of your photos I can see lots of beautiful women. Are women a great inspiration?
A: Of course! Women are beautiful beings created in God’s image. I don’t discriminate on who I take images of. All women are beautiful. It’s my job to bring that beauty out. Weather they realize it or not. On more than one occasion I have approached women at a store, work, gym, etc and simply say, I would love to take some pictures of you. Lol…. Of course I would have to explain who I was in a hurry. You have to admit a random guy asking you to take some pictures of you can be creepy. Lol… But the results have always been what I strived for. I get a rush out of it. Especially with the women who look at me like I am crazy and asked, why do you want to take a picture of me? I am not a model. You don’t have to be a model for great pictures. You just need to know you are beautiful.

Q: Expressive photography is your main creative line. All of your models got something special to say with their face-expression. How much this type of work helps you to express even your own opinions?
A: It is all about facial expression. You can have an amazing natural beauty, curves for days, and a great smile. But if you don’t have facial expressions and you can’t speak to me with your eyes, you’ll lost it. The best thing a girl can do if she wants to get into modeling is practice, do poses in the mirror, facial expressions, anything you can to see how your body works and what brings out your features best. If you are serious about learning facial expressions. Watch animators work. Look at cartoons. I know it sounds weird but try it. You’ll see a difference.



- Are you always the main creator of the story?
For the most part. I get the idea from the individual. It’s my job to create it.

Q: Your amazing work is featured around many famous tattoo magazines. Tell me more.
A: My first publication was in Urban Ink Magazine.I just received an e-mail one day, complimenting my work. This individual who emailed me gave me contact information to Urban Ink Magazine.Told me that they would like for me to submit some images for possible publication, so I did. It was that simple. I don’t know why, or how. But that’s how it happened. So I got with my Tattoo artist, I told him about it and we were thinking who I could shoot to send pictures of.Although I am known for taking pictures of women my first publication was a man, a good friend of mine named Spanky. It was honestly a special publication for all three of us. It was the first time my artist Jose “Inkfather” Sanchez, myself, and Spanky were published. Urban Ink also gave me my first assignment to shoot a tattoo convention. From that point on it just took off.I was going to tattoo conventions with Inkfather throughout the U.S. meeting everyone and taking pictures. I was at a show in San Antonio shooting again for Urban Ink. It was there that I met the Editor and head photographer for Tattoo Magazine Billy Tinney. That meeting changed everything for me. I didn’t know it at the time and it wasn’t until he told me. But from that point he was watching me and my career for months. Talking to artist and watching my work. When I saw him again in Dallas later that year he had asked me to submit a CD of my work and wanted to know if I was interested in working for him and submitting work to Tattoo Magazine. Of course on the outside I was calm a collective. I gave a proper professional response. On the inside I was jumping up and down like a kid. Lol….. I have been working with Billy since then.



Q: Do you work as a free lance photographer?
A: Yes I do. That is how I am able to also submit my work to other magazines as well. Tattoo Magazine will always be first though.

- What would be the most sensitive note you try to reach out of the models?
Really I just tell them to be themselves and have fun. Every emotion shows in images. So it’s important that they enjoy the experience of a photo shoot.



Q: Have you ever had some special requirements from the models?
A: Nothing out of the ordinary. At first when I would have request that their images not be published on line or any other public forum I thought it was odd. But most of those requests were from women who wanted to take images for the husbands or boyfriends. So they we just for them, I can understand that. I have had the same request from teachers, radio personalities, and other public figures.



Q: Do you have a full creative freedom in creating the photography scenario? Are you a trend addict or you just follow your imagination?
A: Yes, people come to me for a reason. They come to me because I tend to be different. Edgy, classy, sensual, casual, dark, whatever the client is looking for. I don’t want to stick to just one style. I don’t want to be known as a pin-up photographer or stuck in one genre. I want to be versatile. To me that’s how you continue to grow. I definitely don’t consider myself to be a trend addict. I follow not only my imagination, but the imagination of the individual I am shooting and their personality. I am there for them. Not me.

Q: Is there any red line, something that is considered as bizarre in photography?
A: I don’t think so. Photography is all about creativity. Is there something I will not do? Sure. I cannot do horror or death photography. I just don’t have that mind set. I remember looking at images from a photographer named “Chiller”. His worked freaked me the hell out. Shit was creepy! But because I felt that within me, I knew he accomplished what he wanted to. I can do dark, but not horror. Yes, there is a difference.


Q: What are the most interesting experiences with the models? Any funny stories you would love to share?
A: Interesting? Yes. I have actually not told anyone this. So you have an exclusive. I had done a photo shoot and she was actually published with the niece of Sharon Tate. Now, if anyone doesn’t know who Sharon Tate is, where the hell have you been? I don’t want to give out her name because that is just too personal. I never did mention anything at the photo shoot nor have I ever asked her about her Aunt. But she is an amazing woman and she did great at her photo shoot.

Q: Women or man brings most of the photo? Who is better in modeling? lol
A: Lol Women of course! I do look and I have done photo shoots for men. Those are the most challenging for me. How the hell do I tell a man to pose sexy and look hot? Lol… I know women want eye candy too. And I do look for men to shoot. The first thing I look for in a male model is artwork. Then I will go from there. But I just recently hired myself a female assistant. The lovely Brix Nobody. So with her at my side at a photo shoot will make it much easier to shoot men. Who is better? I would say women are more versatile.

Q: Any tattoo artists you would love to work with?
A: This year I have shot 13 tattoo conventions. In 2013 I am currently scheduled for 15. I am one of the lucky ones who love’s what he does for a living. I get to work alongside amazing and talented artist in the industry. I have shot many of them and their spouses or girlfriends. Which is an honor to me, but I hope to one day work with Sara Fabel and Eva Huber.

Q: Since your style is well know, have you ever thought to change something and start working on something totally different?
A: No, I like what I do. As I mentioned I don’t consider myself to have any certain style. I feel I am eclectic in my work. I have work with bands, artist, models, celebrities, and have shot many different genres.

Q: Do you still enjoy your work after all those years? What keeps you creative, is there any special tip?
A: Yes, I love what I do. The key is to keep an open mind and always be willing to learn and grow. You can learn so much from others.

Q: Do you have any advice for the beginners? Please feel free to share your feature plans and your website.
A: Just be yourself. Work hard and take all opportunity’s that come your way. Respect everyone and learn. Look at everything through creative eyes.

I am the official photographer for the Ink Life Tour. You can catch me at all of their events throughout the U.S. Check out their schedule at I will also be working with a new industry magazine called Eminent Tattoo Magazine. The first issue will be out in February 2013. You can find a list of my travel dates on my facebook page. 2013 looks to be a great year. More conventions for Tattoo Magazine and I already have bookings scheduled for two cities I will be in. If you want to book a shoot with me you can contact me through facebook or email me at or contact my assistant Brix Nobody @