Monday, April 30, 2007

At a dinner a few months ago with some folks who work in the tattoo industry, I voiced my opinion that the current fascination with all things tattoo-related was nearing an end. After all, how many tattoo reality TV shows, books, magazines, etc can the public really absorb? So imagine my surprise when the other day I walked by the Macy's department store here in Manhattan and saw their latest window displays which are built around classic tattoo imagery in support of a new line of clothes sporting Ed Hardy's designs. Does the tattoo fad still have legs? Or is this the death knell? Can tattoos maintain their "street credibility" now that they have been whole-heartedly embraced by mainstream corporate America? In the end, it doesn't really matter to me; but it must come as a bit of a blow to those who got tattoos in order to cement their personal "rebel" status. I wonder if tattoos can go the way of the skull - once used to strike fear in the hearts sailors by pirates, but now suitable for baby clothes. In an age where tattoos are increasingly common, can they still be thought of as marks of individuality?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

As promised, here are a few shots of recent work. The first three are after my 3/11/7 session and the second set are after my 4/1/7 session. I've gone again since then and will post more pics soon.

I recently read an article on tattoos in Contexts magazine, a publication of the American Sociological Association. The article, titled "Why Do People Get Tattoos" was written by Miliann Kang and Katherine Jones at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. As the title suggests, the authors discuss the myriad motivations people give for wearing tattoos, especially among women. They also devote some time to discussion of tattoo subcultures (so called "modern primitives" and "tattoo enthusiasts") and the limitations of using tattoos to communicate messages due to cultural stigmas attached to tattoos. The tone of the article is captured best in the following quote:

"While these individuals give varied and multilayered meanings to their own and other's tattoos, their personal assertations are sometimes at odds with the pervasive popular interpretations of tattoos as signs of rebellion or faddishness."

I agree. If your tattoo is a means of communicating a message, it probably won't be very effective since most people already have such strong preconceptions about tattoos.
Some recommended reading cited in the article:

"Tattooed: The Sociogenesis of a Body Art" by Michael Atkinson
"Revolting Bodies: The Monster Beauty of Tattooed Women" by Christine Braunberger
"Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern tattoo Community" by Margo DeMello
"Tattoo Narratives: The Intersection of the Body, Self-Identity and Society" by Mary Kosut
"Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoos" by Margot Mifflin

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sorry I've been slacking with the updates! I've got three sessions worth of pictures to post. Sometime this week I promise to get them up. Until then, check out this movie on the NYTimes website. It's the first in a series of short videos called "The Story of Skin" (sorry, a login is required to view), and it is on tattoos. The description on the site reads "Dr. Nina Jablonski says the human canvas offers something different and deeply personal for a world where fashions are mass produced." The video features a brief appearance by New York's Daredevil Tattoo. Thanks to Josh for forwarding me this.