Aged Ink

Time to Shoot

So it was time to head out into the city and try to find these tattoo bearing dons who’s style I like so much.

I was unsure to say the least. Unsure of if i’d find anyone with their tattoos visible in the harsh Mancunion weather. Unsure of whether once found, they’d take kindly to a 20 year old university student inturupting their day and waving a camera in their direction. But unsureties realised, it was time to get out and get looking.

I had a few failures, looking too much like one of those Oxfam “you look like a nice guy! Can I have a second of your time?” charity workers may have been partly to blame, but nothing too bad. One man in Leeds Bus Station with a swallow tattooed on one cheek and a Newcastle football badge on the other told me he’d knock me out if I didn’t get that camera out of his face, (and i’d just offered him 20p for the toilet turnstyle he’d unsuccesfully tried to get in without paying!) but other than that no hard as nails, tattoo covered old men tried to fight me as i’d worried.

I saw Newcastle’s No.1 Fan a day later at the bus station in a full Santa outfit and almost asked him again in case, as it would seem, he’d got into the christmas spirit, but I thought I’d better not tempt fate.

Eventually,  I got my first one:

Jim- 67


“you’re stupid, son”

I saw Jim near the Arndale coming out of Northern Soul Grilled Cheese (you should try it out), got his attention, asked him if I could snap a few pics and pressed the button on my earphones to start recording in voice notes that I had (suprisingly cleverly) opened in anticipation.

As I took them I asked him a few questions;

Whats your name?

“Jim, 16 i was when I had these done lad, im 67 now”


You’ve answered a few of my questions there, erm why did you get them?

“ah I just liked the look of them so I did, thats all the reason you need at that age I suppose ain’t it”


Well thats about all, thanks mate. Any final words of wisdom you’d like to add?

“erm.. well I see you’ve got tattoos on your hand there too. You’re stupid, son.”

and with that he was gone. Not sure how that was a final word of wisdom, but i’ll take it. Cheers, Jim.


On the way home after walking around Manchester taking photos, some that came out pretty cool but sadly no more of tattooed people I noticed a builder doing the roadworks on Oxford road.

I walked along the building site fence trying to get his attention and having to practically shout to finally get it over the sounds of the site. When he heard me he jumped over a small hole that had been dug in the street, wiped some of the dirt off his hands and presented them to me through the fence proudly, with a grin on his face.



“Quick.. I’m on’t Job”


“it’ll have to be quick mate i’m ont job”

Ok, thanks for this. Whats you’re name? and how old were you when you got them done?

“Baz, and I don’t know about 17/18 I think.”


Tattoos across hand say “triumph” with a union jack on the left hand pinkie.

Ok, I wont keep you then. Thank you, any last words of wisdom you’d like to leave me with?

“Keep at this university thing lad and you wont have to be on a building site like me at my age”

A  bit more useful than old Jim’s advice.

It was a shame he was working and had to be quick i’d of liked to find out the meaning and reason behind the “triumph” tattoo on his hands. By his age i’m guessing he could’ve been 17 or 18 at the time of the 1966 world cup (when we won for those who, disgracefully, might not know) but it’d be cool to know the real reason for the tattoo.

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Aged Ink

Whats this all abouttt??



Tattoos are an art form embedded in a sub-culture that has always deeply interested me and one I have always related to. As I’ve acquired my own tattoos, first done by my friends and myself messing around with stick’n’poke’s then by professionals, my interest into the history of tattoos has grown and grown.

Tattoos have been associated with crime and poverty for probably as long as they have existed. Spies in ancient Greece used them to secretly communicate identity and rank and civilizations throughout history have used them to mark slaves and punish criminals. However for some reason, people have always seemed to have a desire put art on their skin and to make a statement despite the negative connotations and perpetration they may face. I think for the people who had tattoos thrust upon them such as the criminals and the slaves part of them adapting the tattoos was a way of owning them and turning them against their captors and the people who had done this to them. For as long as tattoos have been done voluntarily they haver been about self-image, defiance and rebellion.

Times have changed massively now, but tattoos are still not universally accepted. Go back as little as 40-50 years and attitudes were very different with tattoo owners facing negative prejudices and stereotypes.

Because of this I find it hugely interesting when I see 60-70 year old men with tattoos. Not only is the style and look cool, but they have got these tattoos knowing the controversy they will face because of them. The tattoos they have are also in more revealing places than many modern tattoos, usually on hands, forearms and even sometimes on faces.

I want to find these people, discover their stories, show off their tattoos and reveal what it was that made them want to make this a permanent statement.

Two photographers that I got a lot of inspiration from to do this little project are Arkady Bronnikov and Sergei Vasiliev who’s exhibit i saw at the Saachi Gallery a few years ago. Some of their work can be found here!

If you want to watch a cool little video I found that explains the history of tattoos in a bit more depth then here it is!!


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