Sunday, 7 July 2013

"I feel as if I'm in an age gone by"

Robbie Ryan in the barber's chair at Fogtown.  Photo credit:  Ned Pratt
Robbie Ryan is a 26-year old collector with a taste for old time, traditional tattoos.  He is a barber who has served his traditional apprenticeship, "It's all hands-on –barbering and tattooing."  Historical motifs,  bold lines and subtle greys dominate one side of his body: a crying Latina woman on his neck, the pope, the archangel Michael and rosary beads scroll down his shoulder and arm.  Song lyrics and words of wisdom punctuate his hands and knuckles.  The opposite side of Robbie is in colour, a classical statue of Blind Justice with scales weighed down by a mass of people but out weighed by money…a green back bill flutters down.  "Americana is a root of a lot of tattooing…and the working class.  I identify with the blue collar."  Robbie gestures to the barber shop around him, "that's what we're about.  We're for the people."

Although several of his tattoos are done by local tattoo artist Dave Munro and others on his crew at Trouble Bound Studio in St. John's, like the menacing owl swallowing his navel, Robbie Ryan travels to conventions and far flung cities to collect images on his body by artists whose work he has admired.  Ryan's collection spans historical Russian motifs, tattoo classics like the Ace of Spades and memorabilia like portraits of his father and dog –not to mention much of his body from his ears to his ankles.  But his back is a blank canvas waiting for a special artist.  "I don't know who yet," Ryan observes.

Robbie wears religious medals, a gold cross and a gold crucifix.  Old fashioned, ornate and precious, there is a curious resonance between the religious symbolism and the collection of curling lines of ink that arch across his body.  Worlds of meaning meet on his chest.

The above text is taken from my notes during my meeting with Robbie Ryan on Tuesday July 2, 2013 during a photo shoot with photographer Ned Pratt.  Thanks go to Dave Munro who helped me locate Robbie, who generously agreed to "put himself out there".


  1. Thanks for your comment Gina! I will make sure to share it with Robbie. His tattoos are surely a form of self expression and creativity.