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!!