Sunday, 10 November 2013

All Things Tattoo

This picture comes from James Lane's Facebook page

James Lane, known as Jimmy, was important to my decision to do the Tattoo Project and was on account of him that I wanted to call it More Than Skin Deep.  Jimmy is basically a walking memorial to his late mother who was murdered in her home when he was only nine.  He got his first tattoo, with her birth and death dates, when he was fourteen and has accumulated a body's worth since.  Many of them are based on his own drawings.  I was really struck by the contrast between the vulnerability in his eyes and the swagger of his ink.  His is a story of profound loss and the struggle to continue to "never give up" as one of his pieces reminds him.  I think that was when I became convinced of the autobiographical nature of a lot of tattooing.  This is a culture more about people or subjects and less about bodies or objects.  That is also why I wanted Ned Pratt to be the photographer on the project because I knew from first hand experience that he has the sensitivity and the technical ability to capture and communicate that with a camera.

Oddly enough, I has seen very few instances of tribal styled tattoos in St. John's.  Three so far:  one from Montreal as a pair of sleeves; one locally produced on a Corrections Officer who told it was based on his own drawings; and one outstanding example of shoulder work.  The shoulder work had unusual authority and reminded me very much of Maori carved masks.  The red headed basketball player who owned them explained to me that he acquired them in Singapore but yes the tattooist had been Maori.

Apparently the Canadian edition shows more breast that the American edition.

All things tattoo has crept into my "leisure reading" as well.  I am currently reading John Irving's Until I Find You, which follows the narrative of a second-generation tattoo artist and her son.  It is a typically huge Irving saga of several hundred pages.  The details drawn from tattoo studios in a number of countries are interesting.  Expressions like "sleeping among the needles" to indicate sleeping in the studio as the young Alice does are interesting.  And one example of a Scots apprentice being given a piece of flounder to work on is curious.  I was also reminded of a kind of tattoo I have not seen since I was a child.  I remember meeting one man with my father in the ports in Montreal.  He was an old sailor and he had a carp that would appear to swim when he flexed his muscles.  You really never know what you will see once you start looking.
Thanks to Susan Lee Stephan for sending this image

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