“Society will always be too fragile to accept us for all that makes us beautiful”
– Robert M. Drake
Rather emotional, I can no longer be an outsider
From secretly hidden to proudly revealed, body modification becomes a behaviour associated with culture, traditions, biological characteristics and lifestyle. It is a self-expression of individuality marked for a lifetime unless removed.
This digital documentation of body modification is inspired by personal curiosity towards the tattoo art similar to painting. The series is a photographic study of tattooed people, aged between 20 and 51 years from diverse nationalities, gender, skin colour, race, profession, class and religion. Portraiture style is very appropriate for this context, highlighting the tattoo art. Allowing all participants to be themselves only adds a natural and aesthetic feeling that complements their personality.
The work has expanded for over six months aims to define not just its changing role within the society today but also to discover the motivations and reasons behind the permanently inked artistic designs of any type, shape and form. The project investigates what had influenced their decision to mark their bodies and how tattooing had impacted their lives. Extended beyond the borders of body art, a short interview conducted with each participant conveys personal stories that examine what body embellishment means to themselves and how does it concern others.
Even today, for some people tattoo art is unacceptable, and others finds it cool. It is not just about an image or text imprinted on the skin, but a connection and self-discovery depicted through intimate stories. Therefore, sympathy and understanding of the genuine moments of humanity hidden under the inked cover is the purpose of the project.
Discover full story by viewing the online magazine.
Have you seen 'Body Talks' video?
CONFIDENT BEING A MAN
“Having tattoos makes me more confident because I’m thin” which encourages him to at least put some art on his body. “I’m fit, but I think I feel more satisfied with myself as a man. Before in my country, if someone sees tattoos on your body, it means that you just came from jail and you have done criminal activities. It describes the way people think and their mentality, which leads to discrimination and still exists"
– Arnel, 37 from Philippines
"I think it was not about inspiration, it was more about a reflection of who I was. I’m going to be filled with tattoos because they represent the foundation of me, my belief system and my culture. Not a presentation. I’m not going out to present myself, but I am telling myself that these are so important because this is who I am. This is my base; this is my culture. It’s who I am”.
– Meenu, 33 from Bhutan
“I feel that tattoos actually stand out and I wish that I could have tattoos everywhere. I feel they make you a unique person. To me, it’s like memories of everything that you stand for in your body. Everything basically has something to do with some part of my life. Tattoos remind me not to forget my passions and keep going towards what she feels passionate about. It’s like an icebreaker between people and me”.
– Namy, 27 from India
IT FEELS BETTER
“I chose these because I feel nice every day, like a different kind of person. I feel special, and I feel like a normal person. But when I have this, it makes me feel better every day. When I wake up and look in the mirror, I’m different than before. When the needle pushes into my skin, it makes me feel better. I don’t have regrets, but if I look back and see myself in old pictures, I feel it is the old me where I don’t have tattoos. Just because you have a tattoo doesn’t mean that you are a bad guy. We are not criminals for having tattoos. We don’t kill people. I feel better and comfortable with myself having these tattoos”.
– Cleed, 30 from Philippines
A NEW BEGINNING
“At that time it represented me and which stage I was in life. When I found out I was pregnant, was a whole turn around for me. I wanted to change and start fresh. “I was really at a bad stage. It was just a wake-up call for me. I really had to come back to life and ground myself. And this grounded me. They represent a new beginning".
– Irene, 30 from Kenya
"My four brothers are covered in tattoos and that’s where the inspiration came from I would say. To me a tattoo would give me a bit more of my own individuality because nobody else has the same in the exact same places I do, so I suppose it kind of defines me. It gives me some identification maybe”.
– Aoife, 29 from Ireland
THAT’S ME, THAT’S HOW I AM
"‘Without fear and without hate’. That’s how I am. I am an expressive person. When I have to say something and express myself, I do. So that completely reflects who I am. It took me a lot of courage to do something like this. I was very scared of needles, and this completely got me out of fear. I feel it’s like your soul setting free".
– Balwinder, 51 from India
“It should represent you and what you feel about that. It should not be only for the sake of making it, it should represent your emotions. It should show your personality. Sometimes it makes you feel cool that you’ve got a tattoo. But for me, it’s not that. It’s just something that I wanted to do. Nothing to show anybody”.
– Amar, 36 from India
PRETTY AND ATTRACTIVE
“I thought this represents me because ‘Sagittarius’ describes a lot of my characteristics like I am stubborn, I aim high, and I am very focused. I thought that this would definitely represent me at best. I would put things that attract me because it will be on my body. I can’t say having a tattoo means something special, it’s just something I liked so I did it. It’s on my back, so I don’t see it all the time. It’s not something that bothers me. I still love it even after seven years. It makes me feel pretty and sexy. Though I try to cover it sometimes, just not to be offensive to people when I travel to different countries and come across different cultures”.
– Cristina, 36 from Romania
LIFE DOESN’T STOP
"It looks very nice to see people having tattoos, it was fun for me. Once you have the first tattoo, you feel like getting more and more, one after another. It is addictive. My husband had started a blog with the tagline ‘Life can’t stop’, believing that whatever happens, life does not stop. Since he is too much into that, I am thinking of getting that slogan done".
– Deepika, 29 from India
“I feel very popular and very sexy. Because it is on my back, I like to wear sexy dresses just to show my tattoo. I have no regrets at all because now that I’m getting older since it’s on my back, I don’t feel it. And I don’t need to show it every day when I’m working”.
– Nathalie, 35 from Mauritius
"I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. However, I said to myself that I would only do it before Christmas of 2004 if I would manage to stay and do something I planned before leaving Italy. Sometimes I regret thinking that maybe it wasn’t a good idea. At the same time, it reminds me that if I had done it at that age, it was because I wanted and I shouldn’t regret it."
– Piero, 34 from Italy
"I thought that if I want to have something permanently marked it has to be meaningful and symbolic to me. I was the one who drew and drafted it. The big butterfly in the middle is me, and the small ones are my kids, one for each of the girls. Butterflies at the beginning of their lives are worms, and then they change into something beautiful and colourful that you don’t expect”.
– Gamma, 40 from the Philippines
CALM AND PEACEFUL
"It described my personality as a calm, peaceful and a nature type person, which I believe I am. The tattoo doesn’t make me feel different, but it makes me happy, especially after waiting for so long".
– Jiny, 30 from India
“First of all, it’s tough being a woman in the kitchen. I am a chef. And when you have a tattoo they judge you even more. People say all sorts of things to me, and it gets more difficult to work there. Since it’s not always covered, people talk. Sometimes I work with Indians, so they keep saying ‘Who will marry you if you have a tattoo’. It’s difficult in the workplace sometimes. Not always, but I have faced it. They say ‘You cannot perform well as a chef’, and this thing adds more pressure on me. So when they see me with a tattoo, they ask if I have just come out from jail”.
– Melanie, 26 from India
"Definitely it sums up everything about me. I did notice a difference in myself after I got the tattoo. I feel more confident with myself and stronger. I don’t hold back now as much as I used to. It just makes me be myself and not be afraid to show people who I am. People don’t see it for what it is, and it means something to you. To me, it’s art. They don’t generally see it that way".
– Melissa, 28 from India
"I am very happy with it. Doesn’t really make me feel anything special. I just love it on me. I like seeing it on me every day, and I don’t regret it at all. Maybe when you ask me again when I’m 70 years old if I regret when it’s all gone inappropriate then maybe yes, but right now I do not have any regrets".
– Githa, 36 from Indonesia
EXPRESSION OF LOVE
“People say that tattoos lead to skin infections. To be frank, it’s my fifth year having a tattoo, and I don’t have any infections thanks to God nothing has happened. But I will still continue to get more. Some religious people ask why I would do this. But it’s their religion and beliefs, and I do not have any issues with that. My parents, especially my mum, are totally against it. However, it’s my wish. They can’t say anything".
– Deepu, 36 from India
"Getting something inked on your body is like waking up to it every day, like moral support, and I believe in hope and faith. Influence is like seeing a lot of people, and if you’re close to someone, you start reading them. It was just like that. It reminds me of existence, truth and happiness and stuff like that. In life, of course, there are always problems and sometimes you are strong, and sometimes you are not. So I decided that I would make it work out for myself. Every time I feel down, these words remind me of myself. You don’t need reminders. But if you are in front of a mirror looking at your skin, it reminds you who you are and why you have it. It makes me feel different from other people. I don’t judge anyone. So it’s just like a basic reminder about small things that mean a lot to me. Hence, I want them to be a part of my body".
– Nadia, 30 from India
REMEMBRANCE OF MY LIFE
"I grew up surrounded by people, including my father and my uncle who had a lot of tattoos, but I had to wait until I completed 18 years of age.
When you do a tattoo, you know it’s something that is going to stay forever in your life. I never regret whenever I get a tattoo. I like each one and I’ll keep them forever. Even if I would like to cover one, still it will remain a part of me, so I’ll never regret them".
– Giuseppe, 31 from Italy
"I feel free, also tattoos make me feel great. When I was small, I used to be very chubby, so I didn’t like to expose my body or wear cute sleeveless tops or anything like that because I used to be very shy. They gave me more confidence to show my body off, so I wasn’t shy anymore. I was, and still am a fat chubby kid, but you just can’t see it".
– Falan, 28 from India
"It makes me stand out. It pulls me out of the crowd. That’s me. When you have tattoos, people automatically think you are not a regular guy. You’re not just a machine who wakes up in the morning and goes to work, comes back home, sleeps and eats. You don’t have a normal mechanical life. When you have tattoos people think that you are not that, you must be more than that. You get judged when you have tattoos or piercings in this country. Wherever you go you see older people look at you and tell their friends to stay away from this guy or just keep him away. That kind of behaviour kills it over here, but also in India when you go to certain places you have the same type of people’s mentality towards tattoos".
– Sanoop, 30 from India
ART ON MY BODY
"My tattoos replicate my love and respect for my kids. So every morning when I look myself in the mirror, the first thing that comes to my mind is about my daughters.
Some people do not react, they just look and pass. Others are a little bit scared because tattoo used to represent the bad guy. Now is not like this anymore, but before was like this. Some people get scared when they see a body full of tattoos. It is personal and not to show to everyone ‘I have a tattoo, I am a big boy’. You do this for yourself. And I love art as well, it is like putting art on yourself".
– Ludovic, 39 from France
"My tattoos are a reflection of who am I, what kind of person I am, what kind of character I want for me, what’s my hobby, what are the things that are always in my mind. I want those things on my body. I want to see them to inspire me ‘what you thought when you got that tattoo; you have to do it again. It stays; it's a reminder of what you want to be, what you want to do, where you want to be. You cannot judge people based on their appearance. You have to know them.That is what I want to portray through them".
– Jourvil Aiza, 27 from Philippines
INDIVIDUALITY AND CONFIDENCE
"They all mean something. History of life or significant events or beliefs or family. Lots of children’s names and things like that. I’ve got only one piece in colour. Which is pink when my mum got breast cancer. That linked to the history and story of my life. Everything else is black and grey.
It is quite interesting in this part of the world. In the UK it doesn’t matter. Not a long ago, it would seem thuggish and brutish. Criminal like. I’d like to get something on my knuckles, but tattoos on the hands hurt a lot, but I'm also still trying to be semi-professional. I don’t even wear my ear piercing when I go to work. I can do away with the tattoos, but during the day if there’s a big inspection, they will ask me to wear a long sleeve shirt. That’s ok, I don’t mind. It is my choice, and I also choose to work here. I know if I was going to go to a place where I would be deemed, like going to a court, then I would cover them. I’m proud of them, they’re mine. It is just that I like to wear my art".
– Allan, 42 from the United Kingdom
FOLLOWING MY CHOICES
"They are all very personal. Some people don't understand, but to me, they were done because of a significant event at that time or at that time of my life I felt that I needed to have them done - maybe as a release of emotion, or a crazy drunken nightlife in Thailand. Whatever it was, it is something I will always remember.”
– Sophie, 31 from the United Kingdom
“Heavily tattooed women can be said to control and subvert the ever-present ‘male gaze’ by forcing men (and women) to
look at their bodies in a manner that exerts control”
– Margo Demello, Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Society, 2000