Tattoo above by Brian "Dr." Woo of Shamrock Social Club.
Really fascinating tattoo headlines were published this week, with news from around the world. Here are my faves:
Euronews has this article on the first ever tattoo expo in Egypt and the Middle East. Scenes from the convention, which took place this past weekend, can be found in an accompanying video, which also includes an interview with organizer Orne Gil, a woman tattooer talking about "introduc[ing] tattoo art into the Middle East and especially in Cairo at a higher level." [Yeah, you know I loved this.] There's also some discussion on stereotypes about tattoos being for "criminals and homosexuals." A quick but interesting look.
The growing popularity of tattoos in Afghanistan was another favorite news item this weekend. Agence France-Presse reports that, while tattoos are banned in the country, young Afghan men are going underground seeking tattoos, "thanks to the influence of international music stars, sports heroes and American soldiers, who often display elaborate body art." Here's more from that article:
'It is illegal to have a tattoo shop. I do it in secret - if the government finds out, they might come and arrest me,' underground tattoo artist Reza Yousifi, 19, told Agence France-Presse. Mr Yousifi, who has an X-Men tattoo on his arm, developed a passion for body ink while living in Iran as a refugee and later became a skilled artist himself. He uses his friend's male beauty salon as a cover, and keeps his tools hidden at home, taking them out only when he has a client. After 2001, some tattoo parlours set up shop in Kabul, openly advertising their business as Afghans hungrily adopted outside fashions and customs. Religious leaders complained, and the government shut down the parlours, but the craze did not fade. Tattoos are popular among Kabul's bodybuilders - another activity that has boomed since the United States-led invasion that ousted the Taleban.Read more here.
The tattoos of 24 American veterans, most of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are explored in the multimedia exhibit War Ink, (as I posted last month),and it's a very powerful discussion of their war experiences as told through what they have chosen to represent on their bodies. The Richmond Confidential just published an interview with the creators of the project, Jason Deitch, a former Army medic and military sociologist, and Chris Brown, the senior manager at the Contra Costa County Library in California. If you haven't checked out War Ink, I highly recommend you do so.
On the pop culture tip, the NY Times this weekend ran "Dr. Woo, the Tattoo Artist for the Hollywood Set," a feature on Brian "Dr." Woo of Shamrock Social Club. Keeping up with the rep for excellence and cool at Shamrock, Woo -- who was apprenticed by Mark Mahoney -- has garnered an incredible amount of attention via Instagram, as highlighted by this article. Naturally, in the Fashion & Style section of the Times, there is talk of celebrity, but with some interesting quotes like this one:
He isn't fazed by celebrity (famous clients, he pointed out, sit in the same chair atop the same linoleum floor as everyone else), though he's able to gauge star power based on a certain type of pre-inking angst.Finally, my most favorite news story is on heavily tattooed 81-yr-old Helen Lambin. I posted a photo of her this weekend on my personal Instagram feed, and she garnered lots of love for her look; check the video (below) for some wit and wisdom as well. And when people ask you what you're going to look like with all your tattoos when you're older, send them the links to this badass woman.
Photos above from the Montreal Tattoo Convention by David Wong.
Tattoo stories in the news this past week included a number of profiles on great artists as well as some interesting features on the intersection of tattoos and economics. Here's the run down:
So, all my social media feeds were blowing up with photos and dispatches from this weekend's Montreal Tattoo Convention. In fact, as I'm typing this, photos are still streaming from the after party. [These days, "after party" for me is a cheeseburger post Zumba class.] For a look into the success behind the show, the Montreal Gazette profiled power couple Pierre Chapelan and Valerie Emond, who fully took over the reigns this year in organizing the show on their own. [They had co-organized it with others for the past 11 years.] I particularly liked that they discussed Pierre's experience learning to tattoo from his father Michel, also a highly respected artist.
For some great shots from the Montreal convention, check David Wong's Flickr photostream, which include the images above of Mikel Tattoo Sangha and tattooing.
In addition to Pierre, another top artist making mainstream headlines is Pietro Sedda, featured in the Daily Star. Granted, his work is shown under the unfortunate headline, "Freaky faceless tattoos! Is this the world's weirdest ink?" but if that's what it takes to get people's attention to exciting and innovative work, well ... it could be worse. We posted on Pietro last October. You can find his latest work, including the tattoo below, on his site, Instagram, and Facebook.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find in The New Yorker a profile on Scott Campbell, tattooer/artist/designer and more recently wine maker. It's a quick read, but an interesting one. Here's a taste:
At sixteen, he got his first real tattoo (after a small starter skull): a huge purple scarab on his left shoulder. His beloved mother had recently died of cancer, and he'd run away from home to Houston, and "the cultural value of anything was how much it irritated my father"--an oil-company executive. "He'd never get a tattoo, so if I got a tattoo it was a promise to myself to never become like him." Texas yawned at his feet. "Now that I'm about the age he was then--well, if I had to deal with my wife dying, and having two kids to raise, I don't know if I could do it without crawling into the bottom of a bottle, either." (Charlie Campbell says that he quit drinking before his wife died.)Beyond artist profiles, The Economist wrote about tattoos and recidivism, that is, how visibly tattooed prisoners tend to find themselves back in jail. Kaitlyn Harger, a PhD student at West Virginia University, states that employers are less likely to hire those with facial/neck/hand and other visible tattoos, which can lead to recidivism. According to Harger, it can cost $30,000 a year to house one prisoner, and so she argues, "free removal for every prisoner would be sensible economics."
Finally, in our Needles & Sins Facebook group, Anna Felicity Friedman pointed to the SF Gate article on the safety risks of tattoo kits, particularly the "Stick & Poke kits," which I wrote about in January. The article also reminds readers that the FDA does not regulate tattoo inks (or these kits). It's my hope that, with all the great features on top tattooers in the news, people will skip the stick & pokes, and go for something safer and artful.
Last week, a site called jesustattoo.org came across my radar in which there is a video (shown below) of an actor, with a bad wig and faux facial hair, who plays Jesus as a tattoo artist. Tattoo Jesus transforms tattoos that say "useless" and "outcast" to "brave" and "purpose." The big reveal is when he takes off his shirt, and we see that the negative marks are now on his body.
Even as a heathen, I thought it was a nice concept, but I just couldn't get past the fake hair and cheezy production, so I decided not to post it. BUT, when I learned of the "outcry" against the jesustattoo.org billboard in Lubbock, Texas, well, that to me is newsworthy because it's a reminder that many still view tattoos as "blasphemous," and people take the tattoos of others -- no matter what the subject matter -- as personally offensive to their beliefs.
Also interesting is that the evangelicals behind jesustattoo.org are really digging the backlash. According to Vibe, media relations coordinator for the organization, Ashleigh Sawyer, stated: "Certainly, like with all deeply personal relationships, not everyone approves of the image of Jesus with tattoos, but we welcome the controversy because we understand that a dialogue on the issue is the best way to spread the message."
Well, the message is out. Even I ended up posting it.
On Monday, io9.com posted the photo above from YourLocalGP on Twitter, via PZ Myers, in which a "journalist" from The Sun "urgently need[s] an expert who will say tattoos can give you cancer." And he can plug and PAY you to say it!
There has never been a study that links tattoos to cancer. The closest discussion on the topic recently has been on how tattoos may mask melanomas, but not cause them.
But this isn't about tattoos and cancer. It's about how the media constantly sensationalizes and even demonizes an art form because ... really, I don't know why anymore. Are tattoos still scary to society? Do tattoo taboos remain even if Miley Cyrus wears them? Or maybe it's just getting too boring to write about Syria or the US government shutdown?
This is how your tattoo news gets made by tabloids, folks.
[Thanks, John A., for the link!]
Last week, the following story hit the headlines: New York Company Offers Pay Raise For Tattoos. If you hit up that link, you'll see a video in which the CEO of Rapid Realty, a New York apartment rental brokerage, discusses how he offers a extra 15% commission bonus on all deals for employees who have the ugly Rapid Realty logo tattooed on their bodies (as shown in the screen grab above).
I was happy to see the story posted and discussed in the N+S Facebook group page, but I really just chalked it up to another of the many tattoo publicity stunts -- akin to the Marc Ecko's Branded for Life promo, where those who get Ecko logo tattoos also get "20% off For Life" on Ecko merch.
But reading the tattoo headlines this morning, this story grew some serious wings and has been appearing in the media worldwide. For example, the UK's Daily Mail had an extensive article with video and images of employees with their Rapid Realty tattoos. The thread throughout these articles is about brand loyalty and tattoos being the ultimate expression of that.
I've discussed this in my post on Tattoos & Trademark and a lecture I did at Fordham Law School on tattooed logos. In that post and in my talk, I largely looked at those who got logo tattoos because they felt a strong commitment to what that brand represents--how the ideologies of the companies represented on their skin reflected their own values.
What doesn't sit right for me here is that the employees getting their Rapid Realty logo tattoos are incentivized, not necessarily by the ethos of the company, but by financial gain. Someone who needs to pay their own mortgage may not think twice about having their boss brand them to make some extra cash. The company should have some responsibility when permanently marking their corporate drones. What if the company fires a tattooed employee? Will they pay for removal as they did for the tattoo? In cases like this one, the discussion shouldn't really be about "loyalty" but ethics.
Oh, and the CEO does not have a company tattoo himself.
The tattoo news this week has no love for the hippies. Guns, gangstas, ghouls topped the headlines with some juicy body art bits so let's get right to it:
The biggest headline: Rihanna get's a new tattoo -- guns on each side of her rib cage by East Side Ink's Bang Bang. And it turns out it was the tattooist's idea:
"I'm a big advocate of guns. So I said, 'How about a gun?' I printed out a picture of a gun that I thought would look good, and she loved it. We were thinking of putting it on her finger next to her wrist, or on her shoulders. She loved that, but it took away from her face, and you know, she's a CoverGirl, so we couldn't do that! So we put it under her ribs and she loved it. It took about 15 minutes. She didn't complain while I did the tattoo."
C'mon, this has nothing to do with wanting to bust a cap in Chris Brown's ass? Bang Bang says the singer stayed quiet:
"We didn't talk about why she specifically got it. She's a rock. She's just thinking about having a great time now." [Thanks to Jenni for the links!]
In the best tattoo story written by a business mag: Forbes profiles Paul Booth. And it's not bad. I'm not a fan of "The King of Creepy" headline but the article itself was fairly devoid of the usual cliches, and discussed Booth's other projects including plans for a "dark arts" bed and breakfast, preferably at an old Victorian in the woods. Another cool aspect to the article -- albeit very Forbes-ish -- is the photo gallery of Paul's work, which lists the occupation of the wearer and how much he or she paid for the tattoo.
Ed Hardy is also featured in a article and podcast centering around his solo exhibition of his original paintings, prints and drawings at the Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura, CA. Hardy's famed "Dragon Scroll" is the show's centerpiece: a 500-foot-long scroll painting of 2000 dragons in honor of the millennium and Chinese Year of the Dragon. Interestingly, the article says Hardy "distanced himself" from the clothing brand that bears his name [good thing to stay quiet in light of the law suit] but did say "For me not to have to tattoo and to focus the majority of my time on my personal art -- that to me is like my golden retirement." And well deserved.
Going from the masters to the messes ...
The biggest tattoo "FAILS": The six pack fail and the spelling fail. [Thanks, Brayden.]
In fact, there were a number of spelling fails in the news this week, some with nasty consequences like this one: a Connecticut man pulled a gun on his tattoo artist who misspelled a tattoo then refused to fix it.
Meanwhile, another tattooist who misspelled the name of a couple's son is refusing to fix the mistake, claiming they signed a release. While the release may protect the studio legally, maybe it should take head of the previous story.
[I just wanna know why the tattooers aren't willing to fix their mistakes, guns and law suit threats aside. What happened to responsibility and just not being an asshole?]