Ben Fairman had his first full sleeve inked at Jolie Rouge Tattoo Studio by Claudia de Sabe in 2010. http://jolierougestudios.blogspot.co.uk/ I met Ben at the Art in Action event at Waterperry Park near Oxford on Saturday 20th July. http://www.artinaction.org.uk/ He was sitting there having a drink at one of the innumerable temporary cafes and I approached him and then we sat talking for at least a quarter of an hour.
He lives in west London and works in advertising for a small company. He is engaged to be married to the daughter of the artist Tony Merrick, who was demonstrating his technique at the show. Annoyingly I didn't make a note of her name.
Thousands of people were milling around. Art in Action is a cross between a village garden party or fete, the Antiques Roadshow and a tattoo convention. Why the latter? Because as at a tattoo convention you stand over artists and see them work and look at their skills in action.
Ben says the woman on his shoulder watches over the sleeve which uses its fine lines to depict a journey from the flowers of life to images and death and there is also a compass to direct you on your way. All very complicated but then Ben is a complicated man. In 2007 after the break up of his marriage he had a breakdown and engaged in self harm and cutting. His face bears the scars, though the nasty remnant of the long incision down the left hand side of his face is obscured in this photo. As he came out of his depression he had a phoenix tattooed on him. His tattoos he sees as part of the healing process. The ink felt like a shell and then he came to feel more whole.
The owl on his right arm reminds him of his clever fiancé, a psychotherapist, who has brought a lot of excitement to his life.
And the future? His mother and fiancé wanted him to keep his arm free of tattoos. That hasn't happened. But he is soon to be married and he is very excited about that.
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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