Throughout an extremely negative way. During the period

Throughout history
you can see patterns forming surrounding body art. Much like the ancient
traditions, the art has been utilized mostly among warriors and had continued
to gain a considerable following amongst the Western culture. But, also
similarly to the discovery of tattoos to the Roman Empire, after the events of
World War II attitudes shifted in an extremely negative way. During the period
after the war when Nazi Leaders were put on trial for War crimes in Germany,
there were reports of concentration camp prisoners being forcibly inked with
crude marking and identification numbers (fig.6) which had a negative impact on
the perception of the artform, photographs were later released and there are
still a few people today who bear these marks (fig.7.) Tattoos and hate
suddenly became intrinsically linked among the masses and resulted in the cruel
treatment of soldiers who had been released as prisoners of war, found it
difficult to rejoin society as they could not find work. Post-war, the Pacific
Ocean became less fueled with military activity and fewer men were going to sea
and spending their income on tattoos and many tattoo parlours in the west were
forced to close due to a lack of custom. There seemed to be a small spike in
the number of sailors and soldiers getting patriotic ink during the time of the
Korean war in 1950 to 1953 though overall as numbers dwindled in the army the
demand for ink descended considerably. But while the reputation of tattoos at
the end of the 1940s had hit an all-time low, body art was embraced by a new
following. Those who often felt rejected by society found a comfort in ink and
used it as a defiant form of rebellion. This disaffected tattoos as a mark of
honour, and gave a sense of belonging to those who felt like the outcasts of
society, the availability of tattooing became cheaper and easier as the trade
was pushed into the slums. The birth of criminal tattoos did not aid in the
acceptance of tattoos among the masses.

 

Confrontational
ink was adopted by outlaw bikers, urban gangs and ex-cons and aided in
judgement of tattoos being regarded as marks of deviance. The most popular
tattoo style of today is black and grey and this, in fact, was born in the US
penal system as it was originally worn by prisoners who scavenged components
from prison workshops to construct make-shift tattoo machines. Though as there
was no access to ink they would make black pigments from soot and ash thus
creating the black and grey style which was harshly judged and hated amongst
the working class and up. In the US the outlaw biking subculture would bear
marks of hate and often chose offensive ink, beginning with the most notorious
biker gangs such as the Hells Angels and the Pagans. The period between the
late 1940s right to the 60s is regarded as one of the darkest times for tattoo
art but even as the reputation of tattoos depleted among polite society, there
were those still adamant to evolve the practice into the multimillion-dollar
industry we know it as today. Tattoo studio’s such as Les Skuse (fig.8), a
Bristol based Tattoo Club established in 1953, worked hard to build a community
who would exchange ideas and share stories, not of hate but of the amazing art,
creativity and a sense of healing that the practice was originally built on.

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Besides the
long-standing loyal practitioners of the trade, one of the key contributors in
the tattoo revolution during the 1960s was Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins
(fig.9.) “Back in the 1920’s, When Collings came of age, tattooing was an
expression that belonged to an emerging American counterculture. It was a mark
of not blindly following the mainstream – of choosing to live outside the
lines.” Collins took inspiration from the traditional body art of Japanese
culture and created a whole new fascination as he links the old-school tattoos
of the early 1900s with the tattoo art renaissance of the 1970s (fig.10.)

 

Before the 1960s
counterculture revolution hit the west, most tattoos had been worn as marks of
rebellion and celebrations of patriotism, but as the 1970s unfolded body art
took a radical turn and saw tattooing as a means of protest as the impacts of
civil rights movements swept through the west. Political activists would adorn
their body with art depicting anti-war cries, controversial imagery
illustrating gay rights movements and women’s liberation. The support of
student activists gave tattoo studios a whole new audience of blank canvases
wanting to mark their skin as a sign of sympathy with these causes, there became
a significant amount of flash art adorning studio walls presenting doves and
peace signs. Though, as the revolution ebbed in the mid-70s, there had emerged
the New Age Movement implicating a range of spiritual or religious belief
structures that had challenged society to engage in social politics and
implement change in the world. Attentions were turned to the devotion of
exploring one’s spirituality, self-help and guidance which created a new focus
on the power of the individual. This movement relished in the concepts of body
art as this too was an expression of individuality and improving upon your own
self worth and value. This gave birth to the application of personalized
designing rather than the original mass-produced flash imagery, which is a
prominent skill to a successful career in tattooing even to this day, but in
the ever-looming pull of social media in modern day, the appliance of multiple
copy/flash imagery is at large once again. Changing attitudes to body art
opened the craft up to an increasing popularity among women and found a number
of female artists experimenting with tattooing which aided in the
comfortability of being inked as many feminine designs came out, that the more
traditional ‘manly’ tattoo artist would not touch.

 

Artists across the
states and Europe wanted to capitalize society’s revived intrigue in tattooing,
they took leaps and bounds in cleaning up the industry and improving on the
standards of sanitation and sterilization, which made the studio environment
more welcoming and inviting to those who had reservations towards tattoos
because of the previous reputation in the utilization of parlours for bikers and
criminals.