The way our appearances alter how we are perceived to the outside world has always fascinated me, so it’s inevitable that I would eventually turn my lens on tattooed people. A far bigger statement than mere clothing, tattoos reach beyond those temporary shells of fabric and lace to become part of our flesh. Tattoos can be value statements, memories, or art. Sometimes, they are all three. Aside from a little curiosity, I held no preconceived notions about tattoos or the people who own them. I just found a bunch of contemporary Aussies and asked them to write a few words about their ink.

Canberra-tattoo-Dale-Chynoweth
Dale I take much family pride and thus have both sides of my family crest on each forearm. My right is my fathers side from Cornwall England, the other is also English, however it takes elements from its Scottish origin. My upper-arm has a pattern which creates a man with his head in his hands, bleeding out of the ears. It’s about overcoming psychological issues. I also have a guilt-free band tattoo on my wrist, it’s “seasons wither” with the machine head logo.

Tattoo-Canberra-Benny-Chop
Benny hey, im benny.. ive been getting tattooed for 9 years. for some reason, i like the pain, maybe cos it helps get rid of other pain like heart break and stuff. i like to get tattooed where most people dont want to or are scared to get tattooed, i think only to show that anyone can. i have a mix of silly and meaningful tattoos. sometimes you need a bit of humour and need to get something dumb. it reminds me of the crew that tattooed me and the fun and laughs we had. love life and have fun, at the end of the day, its only down to you.

Canberra-tattoo-Kirsty-phoenix
Kirsty I got my tattoo after 4 years of contemplation. Over the 4 years I lost my best friend from highschool, RIP Daffy… he committed suicide. A year later, I lost my ‘brother from another mother’, an American soldier killed by an IED in Iraq, 2 weeks after his 21st birthday… RIP Charlie. 2 months later, I lost my childhood best friend to a severe asthma attack… RIP Michelle. A year after that, I lost my grandfather, who had a long term illness and who I had cared for throughout his deterioration… RIP Grandpop. 2 months ago, I lost my training partner; 20 years old, an aspiring actor, talented archer and incredible person…. RIP Leo. By that stage, I’d been contemplating a memorial tattoo forever, however it was never going to be a phoenix until I lost Leo. Over the 4 years I’d battled mental illness after each death, depression became an issue, as a nurse and generally bright and bubbly individual who was always the rock, that wasn’t acceptable. I battled in silence. The image of the phoenix appeared shortly after Leo’s death as a symbol of hope, rebirth, renewal of life and reminded me of each person I’d lost in a different way. The art itself reminded me of Daffy, a talented artist. The bird reminded me of Charlie, who loved being up trees and in strange places. The history behind the bird reminded me of Michelle, who planned to study anthropology. The noble and proud characteristics of the phoenix, reminded me of my Grandfather. The colours and sparkle in the phoenix eye reminded me of Leo. Altogether, it’s a reminder everyday, they are with me, I will rise up every time something ‘bad’ happens, and it’s time for me to live on for them.
  Canberra-Tattoo-Liam-Armstrong
Liam Sleeve: 4 qualities required for martial arts, physical and internal strength, courage and wisdom. Roman Numerals: 1987, the year i was born. Back: My Guardian Angel Stomach: Life as poker, you have to work with what you’re give, you don’t always get dealt the best hand, but depending on how you play with what you’ve got the best hand doesn’t always win

Canberra-tattoo-Tom-Forrest
Tom The turtle tattoo came about after an entertaining encounter with a few turtles when I was scuba diving with a friend. After sitting 12m underwater and watching turtles for 25 minutes, we decided that a turtle tattoo would be a fun idea and a good way to remember the experience. The stars were a stupid idea as a tattoo shop opened up next door to work and a few of my co-workers decided we should all get tattoos. The whale on my foot was to prove to some English girl in Thailand that I wasn’t scared to get a tattoo. The Koi fish was a cover-up of a shit tattoo and I decided I wanted one after another few months travelling around SE Asia. The Swedish flag was a bender of a night that resulted in me waking up next to a Swedish girl who I had convinced to get a kangaroo tattoo’d in a similar position…

Canberra-tattoo-Jared-Hartley
Jared I’ve always had a love and fascination with tattoos, before i was old enough to get my own i admired my artist’s tattoos, his style and his band. my knuckles say “LIBERATE” and represent my love for animals and not eating them thats pretty much the only one with significant meaning but i don’t believe i’ll ever be finished.

Canberra-tattoo-Natasha-Justyn
Natasha (left) Tattoo on my back – It sounds rather clichéd, but Scorpio is my star sign and I super strongly identify with it.  Passionate, intense, vengeful, obsessive, secretive…  That’s pretty much me to a T. Tattoo on my pelvic bone – Haraam is an Islamic word.  It’s commonly known as meaning ‘forbidden’ or ‘sinful’ but it also means ‘holy’ or ‘rare’.  I wanted something that combined my religious heritage (Islam) with my race (Bengali) so I picked an Islamic word but had it in Bangla script instead of Arabic.  I chose ‘haraam’ because the yin yang meaning of the word appealed to me.  But I also chose it because tattoos are considered haraam (as in bad) for Muslims and that kind of appealed to my rebellious side.

Tattoo on my chest – I often feel like a massive split personality.  It probably comes from being such a secretive Scorpio type.  But for a while now I’ve had an intense growing awareness of the significant disparity between my outward self and my inner self.  It’s not just minor differences but more like an insurmountable gulf.  & this tattoo is sort of a representation of exactly that feeling.  The two N’s are entwined in an infinity chain.  So they’re separate but linked and can’t get away from the other because of how they are chained together. ~

Justyn (right) Like many men in the 90s I decided I wanted a tattoo after seeing George Clooney’s character in From Dusk Til Dawn. For the whole movie there is just a hint of a tattoo visible on his neck. In the final scene where he takes off his jacket to reveal the tattoo goes from his neck to his wrist, just about everyone I knew thought it was the coolest tattoo ever. About 7 years later I decided to finally get my first tattoo which, while I had moved on from the Clooney tattoo adoration, still ended up being a full arm tribal number. There are only two groups on earth. Those that are tattooed and those that aren’t. You immediately join a sort of exclusive club. For every tattoo lover out there, there is a tattoo hater or someone who just doesn’t understand. You spend your life answering the same questions: “Did it hurt?” “Why did you get that one” ” What does it mean?” For the record my tattoo means nothing as far as I know. It is a tribal marking that has a nice symmetry. My biggest regret is that I used a whole arm. After being tattooed you become attuned to other tattoos and you notice just how much great work is out there. In retrospect I would have kept some more flesh free for other tattoos. Like everyone says, tattoos are addictive. Once you realise that you can put up with the pain you quickly begin looking for your next piece. I will most likely go a full Japanese arm on my other side, as bright as possible, to counterbalance the black tribal on my right. Tattoos are great! They get under your skin and into your head.

Canberra-tattoo-Andrew-ANU-2

Andrew I first decided to get tattooed when I was about ten, I saw a guy fishing on the beach with dragon tattoos on his arms. The way they moved fascinated me and I said to myself that one day I want to look like that.

Canberra-tattoo-Scott
Scott I have more shitty little tattoos than I do proper well-thought out ones. My right sleeve was done in three parts over about 6 years. Lazy, I know. First tattoo I ever got was a small Deftones ‘White Pony’ outline on my wrist. I worship these guys and always have. So much so that my second tattoo was their self-titled album cover from 2003, a massive skull and roses on my right elbow to wrist. I still love it today as much as I did when I got it. I never really planned on having any theme going with my tattoos or my sleeve for that matter. I just ended up tying my arm together with (what I believe) is the underlying theme of death or basically, impermanence. I got a large Mike Giant piece added around March 2009 of a tattooed undead Chola girl which continued the theme somewhat, and recently I added a coffin on my forearm with the words ‘Any Day Now’. I look around the world and think it kind of funny and quite pathetic that we spend so much time and effort squabbling over monotonous things when in reality, you could cease to exist the next day over something as miniscule as an infection, or a driver sneezing and closing their eyes only to run you down. We’re just so temporary it’s ridiculous. That’s why I don’t care too much about crappy tattoos. It’s about the experiences you’ve had and your take on the world, not just the way you want people to view you.  Sure I want some good ones, but I don’t care too much at the end of the day.

Canberra-tattoo-Zoe-Brown
Zoe I see tattoos as pretty artworks on my body to express my interests and decorate it. All of my tattoos are custom and have been done by various female tattoo artists from Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra i prefer the feminine designs women produce so i want all of my tattoos only done by them and i don’t care where i have to go to get them!

Canberra-blog-tattoo-Ash-Johnston
Ash I can look back on every one of my tattoos and remember why they are there. I have a drawn history of my most cherished moments and loves in detail for me to see daily.  They may not be for everyone, and some people may think they’re disgusting but the fact of the matter is that I will still know who I am when I’m in diapers being spoon fed. Will you? You only live once.