Last week, Vice published "The History of Tattooed Ladies from Freakshows to Reality TV," in which writer Zach Sokol interviewed Anni Irish, who had just given a talk at The Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn entitled "The American Tattooed Ladies: 1840-2015." This article, which followed up on the talk, has been getting a lot of traction on social media and caught the attention of academics, who uncovered a number of myths and misstatements in the piece.
On her Tattoo History Daily Facebook page, Anna Felicity Friedman posted a link to the article and invited other tattoo scholars to point out errors in Anni's interview. Experts flooded the comment thread. I highly recommend reading them all.
Instead of just writing a critical blog post on the article, Anna wrote a post offering guidance to journalists: "Questions to Ask When Writing About Tattoo History and Culture." Other contributors to the list include Matt Lodder and Amelia Klem Osterud, author of the book "The Tattooed Lady: A History."
Questions include the following:
Are you reiterating or perpetuating any broad popular assumptions that might be myth? Two classic myth examples are that modern Western tattooing derived from Cook's voyages to Polynesia and that Western tattooing was previously only the purview of sailors, bikers, criminals, gangs, the lower class, etc. etc.I hope that this list of questions, and the discussions behind them, get just as much attention as the Vice article.
Here are some more N+S posts on tattoo myths:
* Tattoo History Myths Exposed
* The Cook Myth & Western Tattooing
* Setting the Tattoo History Record Straight
* Tattoo Cliches Through the Ages
One of the best presents I got this holiday was the Things & Ink "Stripped Back" issues of awesome, with three special covers featuring tattooers Flo Nuttall, Brian Wilson, and Delphine Noiztoy as well as Yann Brenyak. While the content is the same on the pages, it's worth collecting all three. How often do you see men on covers of tattoo magazines?
Once again, I cite Things & Ink as a way to present tattooed women, even nude, in ways that are sexy without being sleazy. For example, the El Wood shoot, an image from which is shown below, is gorgeous and elegant. El has modeled for many other tattoo magazines, and if you do a Google image search on her, you'll see differences in which her beauty is portrayed.
I'm also a huge fan of "The New Normal" spread, in which women, and a man, who normally don't fall under the "tattoo model" category as per today's industry standards, are photographed and art directed by Josh Brandao as "human curiosities" "to challenge what society deems as acceptable, to shatter the boundaries of attraction and redefine what we see as beautiful." Check the video preview below for a peak at those pages.
Beyond the fashion, my favorite articles also included an intimate look into the home of Lianna Moule of Immortal Ink (with her husband Jason Butcher); the Q&A with tattooer Ashley Love of NY Adorned; and Amelia Klem Osterud and Carmen Forquer Nyssen offer another fantastic historical piece, this time on "Mr. & Mrs. Ted Hamilton," tattooed performers who worked for smaller circuses in the 1920s.
And so, once again, I highly recommend picking up the latest Things & Ink. You can grab it online here.
Photo from Amelia Klem Osterud's "The Tattooed Lady: A History"
Inspired by the Ladies, Ladies Art Show, today's holiday gift guide post features books that celebrate tattooed ladies through history. These titles have all been mentioned here before but worth repeating for those who haven't scooped them up yet.
* The Tattooed Lady: A History by Amelia Klem Osterud is a beautiful hardcover that explores the lives of tattoo's godmothers, complete with fascinating narratives and photos dating back to the 1880s. We wrote about its release last November, and it still sits close to my desk for reference. For more info, check out Amelia's blog.
* Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo by Margot Mifflin remains a classic. From sideshow ladies to prominent female tattoo artists, the book looks at how tattoo culture has changed & the roles women have played in it. It features great stories and images as well. Margot's latest, The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman, is also an interesting read.
* The Tattooing Arts of Tribal Women by tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak is a scholarly book on the role of women as tattooists in many indigenous cultures, with over 250 photos & illustrations. Lars has a new book out called Kalinga Tattoo, which is so gorgeous it warrants its own post. That's coming up.
* Madame Chinchilla's Electric Tattooing by Women 1900-2003 is a yearbook of women tattoo artists over a century. It's not a fancy book but it is a Who's Who of Tattoo up until 2003 with quotes from each artist.
* On the fiction front, check out Tattoo Artist: A Novel by Jill Ciment -- a story about a New York artist who is marooned in the South Pacific and eventually becomes a revered tattooist among the Tu'un'uu people at the turn of the century. It then flashes forward, 30 years later, when she returns as a heavily tattooed woman to New York. A fun read.
If you have your own favorites, feel free to share them in the comments.
Ok, this isn't my usual monolithic tattoo news review as I've been on the convention circuit for the past two weeks, but I wanted to share some things I found when I opened my eyes and Inbox this morn.
First, before I even reached for my first cup, The NY Times greeted me with the image above (by Ashley Gilbertson) of the coffee knux tattoo in its article on the best cafes in NYC. And it reminded me of an old fave on KnuckleTattoos.com of such career killers wrapped around a cup of coffee. And then it made me long once more to tattoo my hands. And then I remembered that one day I may need to be employable once more. And then I also remembered that the Times article had nothing to do with tattoos, so I drank some coffee and moved on.
Then, my Inbox dinged with a real tattoo story: Daily Candy's front page profile today on the fabulous Amanda Wachob. And while the word "tats" and phrase "upgrade your tramp stamp" made coffee shoot out my nostrils in frustration, it is nice to see a great artist get some sweet props from the masses. We featured Amanda here last October and noted her experimental tattoo projects that got us hyped (sans caffeine). Here's a sample of Amanda's work below.
And finally, just before I was about to click publish on this post, I got a Facebook reminder that, tomorrow, Amelia Klem Osterud will discuss her book The Tattooed Lady: A History at Word bookstore in Brooklyn from 7:30-9PM. We featured the book here in November and I've devoured my copy since. As an added bonus, tattoo artists Bad News Becca and Emma of Porcupine Tattoo will be discussing their work.
So, that's the run down of tattoo goodness I found all before noon. A good omen for the day. [The mega-round up will be up soon. I hope.]
I regularly like to search Amazon.com for new tattoo tomes, and funny enough, the one that looked the most fun is a recommended companion buy with my own book:
The Tattooed Lady: A History by Amelia Klem Osterud explores the lives of tattooed women who tantalized Americans across the country performing in circuses and carnivals in the early part of the century. These foremothers paved the way for Suicide Girls and "Hot Inked Chicks" whom we ogle online just as eagerly today. But back then, with opportunities limited to women, the life of a tattooed attraction provided them, not only with income, but travel and experiences beyond the kitchen. Here's more from the book description:
"Living in a time when it was scandalous even to show a bit of ankle, a small number of courageous women covered their bodies in tattoos and traveled the country, performing nearly nude on carnival stages. These gutsy women spun amazing stories for captive audiences about abductions and forced tattooing at the hands of savages, but little has been shared of their real lives. Though they spawned a cultural movement--almost a quarter of Americans now have tattoos--these women have largely faded into history.I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon, which is due out later this month. For further reading on the history of tattooed women, from sideshows to riot grrls, read Margot Mifflin's classic Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo.