I was on holiday in Malta these past few days and around the pool it was like a mini tattoo convention. In each of the next few posts I will feature people I interviewed and photographed.
The first is Jenny from Stockholm. She got her first tattoo at the age of fifteen. She was inspired by her father, who had got himself a ship tattooed on him while in Denmark. She saw it and nagged her parents until they agreed she could have one too. She says she was generally precocious and thought I want tattoos in my life so got a Chinese sign for an elephant inked on her, By eighteen she had her backpiece and in the twelve years that followed had the rest done..
Unusually on her right arm she has a fine picture of a former boyfriend and when they broke up, rather than getting a cover up she just had a large cross tattooed over it. She doesn't want to get rid of it and says she would do the same with any future boyfriend. The only problem would be if he objected to the existing photo. Annoyingly I failed to take a photo of this tattoo.
Jenny works as a cashier in a small supermarket and says the reactions to her tattoos are mostly positive. Her next piece of work will be a neck tattoo. Life is too short, she says, and she wants visible tattoos but would not get her fingers done. She has a small ear tattoo which can hardly be seen. Soon the skulls on her stomach will be coloured in.
Jenny likes attention and is an extrovert who is happy to admit that she is addicted to tattoos. She says in Swedish there is a word for addiction that isn't so perjorative as it is in English. Her tattoos are a story of her life and when she looks at them she can remember where she was at that time.
Her tattoo work is done at the Tatuering Studion in Stockholm by Tusch Andy.
Jenny as you can see is now very dark skinned. She says she is actually very fair, like most Swedes, but she likes to change her appearnce. A couple of weeks ago she had her hair dyed a neon pink and has used tanning creams to change her skin colour. I understand only too well her desire to transform her appearance in this way, but am a little confused because having a fair skin and lots of tattoos shows them off to best effect. Jenny's transformational desires almost seem to work against each other.
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My mind is focussed on just one kind of extreme body modification - heavy tattooing. My body appearance has changed drastically in the past five years. But what are other people's body modifications of choice? One is a practice known as "tight lacing", in which the users of corsets embark on reducing their waist sizes to as small at 17 or 18 inches, if they can. It's not something that grabs me but Lacie here ( www.staylace.com ) has dedicated herself to the practice. There are others like her who take it very seriously. It's a fetish and not necessarily permanent. If you give up regularly wearing this special kind of corset then you will eventually revert to normal. I have no plans to embark on this myself, but before I pass any judgement must reflect that what I am doing to myself is even more extreme. The images here are truly eye catching. I have never knowingly met anyone who is into tight lacing yet there is a big community out there who do it.
The work in my groin and pubic area has been completed. Years ago Louis Molloy did the central figure in this picture but avoided going all the way. Now Ben has tattooed a circle of clouds all around the image that goes as far as it can without inking my genitalia. This completes the work on my torso. Added to that Ben has worked some hair detail on a much older art nouveau image originally tattooed in the nineties. Months ago Ben covered the black hair with brown. Today he gave the hair some texture. To mark the end of this phase Ben took some pictures of my whole body.
I went to the Newport, South Wales convention yesterday. Before getting there, I spent two and half hours with a face painter who gave me fake face and neck tattoos. It was painstaking but very pleasant and enjoyable. Sam Fisher, the face painter from Longwell in Bristol, did a wonderful job and the reaction I got at Newport was quite electric. All tattooists spotted the fakery immediately and most heavily tattooed people didn't take long either. But many were unsure. One way or another I caught the eye and it led to many conversations with those attending the convention. It was an opportunity to talk about face tattoos and how far people were willing to go. I was struck that a significant proportion of those there with some face tattoos were women. I'm not sure, but maybe more than half. One young woman I photographed, but unfortunately can't name check, has at her tender age advanced very far on neck and face. She said she may well take it furt