Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Deeper Ink

December 30th, 2009 by

It’s funny how a little bit of curiosity can go such a long way.  I never ask people what their tattoos mean to them.  I may be thinking it, but it’s always seemed to me to be a rather personal question.  I’ve told people that I like their tattoo or tattoos and I’ve asked people where they got the work done and who the artist was, but when it comes to getting right down to brass tacks and asking about the meaning, I always stop short.  After reading this article about photographer Marianne Bernstein, I may have to rethink my policy on talking to people about their tattoos.

Bernstein, 53, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, made the decision one day to talk to a homeless girl who was sitting on the street.  Bernstein asked the girl if she would mind having her photo taken, and also if the girl would write down on a piece of paper what her knuckle tattoo “Lost Girl” meant to her.  The end result became the catalyst for Bernstein’s new book Tatted.

Tatted is the culmination of a vast amount of curiosity and care.  Within its pages, is a collection of people’s tattoos – a photo and a page written by the photographed person on what their tattoo means to them.  There are almost 100 such photos and written statements.  What Bernstein found while working on Tatted was that tattoos aided her in finding out so much more about the people she photographed.

“People are so much more interesting when you look closely.  How many times do you walk by somebody like that and wonder what their story is? It was a chance to connect with somebody.”

It took Bernstein a year to complete Tatted, walking Philadelphia’s South Street and finding people whose tattoos caught her eye.  The book was then published by Brian Jacobson and Nathan Purcell of GritCityInc.

At an opening party earlier this month at Pure Gold Gallery at the Piazza at Schmidt’s, almost 150 of Bernstein’s images and accompanying handwritten descriptions were on display and for sale. Jacobson said there was something nice about seeing some of his more straitlaced family and friends from out of town mingling with the city’s tattoo culture.

“They hold a common misconception that people with tattoos are different,” Jacobson said. “Being there with people covered in tattoos and seeing the images on the walls, I think it surprised them to see that the only difference is these people literally put their emotions on their bodies. I hope it changed their perception of tattoos.”

I think what’s possibly the most interesting thing about Marianne Bernstein and her book is that Bernstein herself doesn’t currently have any tattoos.  For someone outside the tattoo culture to look so deeply into it and to learn so much from it is a really special thing.  If more people took the time and care that Marianne Bernstein has taken in amassing Tatted, then maybe we would all be a tiny step closer to understanding one another; tattooed or not.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.