Dec201109
Holiday Gift Guide Giveaway: "London Tattoos"
05:32 PM
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One of the most common questions tattooed people get on a regular basis is: "What does it mean?" There's an assumption that some momentous event must occur to inspire those who permanently mark themselves. For many, it is hard to understand tattoos as "art for art's sake."

With this in mind, I was pretty thrilled when I opened up Alex MacNaughton's new  "London Tattoos" book, and read this in the very first portrait profile, which is of 43-year-old Alice Temple:

My tattoos don't mean anything to me other than I like being covered in tattoos. It's a purely visual thing. I like the look of almost anyone who is covered, and I knew I wanted the same. What I have on me is almost irrelevant. What is important is the artist who works on me.
Alice's story is her lack of a story. It may not make for good reality TV but it's a great way to start a beautiful photography book where the subjects reflect on their tattoos and tattoo artists. Indeed, it is the props to the artists -- where the tattoos featured are specifically credited to each tattooist -- that makes London Tattoos  more than just pretty pictures and personal musings. You may actually fall in love with a tattooist's work based on what you find in these pages. [Alice's primary work was done by Nikole Lowe, which she further explains.]

But I really do dig the pretty pictures and reflections of the collectors. In these reflections, there are some compelling narratives behind the tattoos, answering the "what does it mean" question for those unsatisfied with the "because I like it" response. One of my favorites is that of Professor Richard Sawdon Smith, head of the Art and Media Department at London South Bank University. [A part of his spread is shown below.] Here's an excerpt from his story:

My tattoo is a very personal project made public. It speaks of living with a long-term incurable illness that requires regular blood tests on a tri-monthly cycle for the last 16 years, making the visible the internal and highlighting this regular routine.

London Tattoos by Alex MacNaughton1.jpg
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If you're not a big reader, the photographs are sure to hold your attention. The award-winning photographer -- who has authored three street art books -- offers intimate close-ups of the tattoo work that accompany the portraits. See more in this gallery. But Alex states that his goal is not to have a book simply showing tattoos:  "I want to show how tattoos are a reflection of a person's character and lifestyle, how to live with them and how tattoos can enhance confidence and success in life." Right on!

Extra bonus:  The foreword is written by our tattoo history guru, Dr. Matt Lodder, who also takes off his clothes in the latter portion of the book.

You can purchase the 304-page paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com in the US.

BUT before you do, enter to win a free copy! The Prestel Publishing sent us a copy for one lucky reader. As usual, the winner will be selected randomly from those who comment on this post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook or who Tweet at me. In one week, December 16, we'll put all the names of the commenters/tweeters into Randomized.com and the internet gods will offer up the chosen ones.

Good luck!

UPDATE: It seems the fabulous Dr. Lodder is offering a copy of his own to a reader in the UK. So when you comment in Facebook or on Twitter, let us know if you're in the UK.


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EDITOR IN CHIEF:
Marisa Kakoulas
CONTRIBUTORS:
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
Sean Risley
Patrick Sullivan
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