Inking sheep

Today I visited a Tattoo Parlour for the first time, actually this kind of establishment is now called a Tattoo Studio. I wanted to develop some better understanding about the ‘inking’ of texts on to bodies. It was a careful conversation. For their part I suspect they were a trifle suspicious of a photographer (albeit without a camera) expressing interest in what their customers have written on their bodies, and for my part aware that the impression I was making was likely to define whether I was going to get any further in opening the conversation.

After a slightly shaky start it seemed to go well, I brought some of my text and image work to illustrate where I was ‘coming from’ which seemed to generate some interest. It was suggested that I come back another time around 5pm as they will have more time to spare. I’ll do that.

Earlier in the morning this tattoo video came to me, which I found quite fascinating in the issues it confronted and so I was interested in the responses coming from the tattooist that I spoke to afterwards.

I asked about motivations in his customers, what drove them to want to be marked indelibly – with only repetitive and costly laser removal as a resort to remedy – and his answer quite surprised me. “Sheep” was the response, they see a celebrity and want to copy, they see a mate and they want one as well. Most of the work he does seems driven by that need to conform or be led – like sheep. Surely not all, I said. No, of course people do want mementos and the video (above) seems to have been carefully edited to promote the personal value of body art; however the practitioner – ‘on the street’ – seemed to have a slightly more jaundiced perspective. He then went on to talk about how some customers came with very personal messages, extracts from poems or songs that have clear resonance.

I’m wondering about this resonance and whether I need to worry about it. Whether I concoct that resonance with the associations that I bring to the image(s) that I plan to make that have texts associated to them. These texts won’t be emotional connected until I bring them to the image in some shape or form – to be decided.

Lots to think about and some more discussions with tattoo artists I think.