Tattoos of Crown Heights
The Philosophy of Tattoos
We live in a city where someone can see all manner of tattoos, and living in Crown Heights is no exception. No matter the subject matter I always find myself gazing at a tattoo longer if it seems a little out of the mainstream. Getting a tattoo is an experience that gives its seeker form to their identity with troves of meaning hidden within the lines no matter how or where it is made. Each tattoo provides insight into an individual’s experience of the world and the art they possess. Whether or not this is directly perceived, the tattoo expresses an individual's beliefs and values right up to the moment that the ink is placed in the skin. If you know what to look for, and understand that there are many ways that ink can being injected into the skin, you can see there are an enormous number of ways to be tattooed.
Although getting a tattoo is an experience of imprinting on the skin for life, the experience itself lends additional levels of meaning – most often representing a mix of ideas and foresight. A tattoo’s wearer has the key to the deeper personal meaning behind the image of the tattoo, which may or may not have some relation to the imagery represented in the ink. However the tattoo pursuer will also carry the experience with them, including the initial pain and later euphoria, as well as other events that transpire during the process. This incidental significance comes with the territory, for the amount of time it takes to be tattooed doesn’t often fit in the client's plans. When a tattoo is finally finished there is an indelible image, the actual experience of getting the tattoo, and then the memory of this experience as well as the tattoo’s significance carried on by its wearer. Each level of meaning provided by the tattoo can be felt by the individual, even though others will simply see the image.
With each piece signifying a definite moment in time and retaining a deeper meaning for its carrier, the result may not be as intended, having somewhat missed its mark visually, or, if not done by an meaning of the tattoo is most often associated with the intentions its wearer had in mind while planning the tattoo, or betrays a moment in which someone was otherwise not in complete control of their life. Tattoos made in prison, often but not necessarily relating to gang affiliation, are an example of this type of work. Tattoos not made in tattoo shops such as prison tattoos may no longer carry the weight and effect they once generated once the prisoner is released. Seen in the context of our tattoo abundant culture the stigmas once given to prison or even gang related tattoos seem to have diminished. Gang related tattoos of course still carry deeper implications to their bearers as it concerns law enforcement officials, but can also be done in clandestine locations outside of tattoo shops. Each tattoo’s deeper meaning is communicated to others in an open way or as a coded visual cue only clear to the person with the tattoo.
There is of course the more recent popularity of the stick and poke style of tattooing that can be seen on people walking down the sidewalk or sitting in a café any day of the week. Although it isn’t uncommon to find a professional artist specializing in this method at Tattoo shops, here you may more easily find do-it-yourself tattoos made using non-traditional inks, house hold items and done using questionable techniques reviled by tattoo artists. Stick and poke tattooing is simply a manual method of applying ink into the upper layers of skin using a single needle often tied to the end of a pen or pencil. Tattoos made this way often appear as being more minimal and restrained, appearing more ‘lined’ or geometric due to the nature of the single needle and relative labor intensive process required to achieve a stick and poke tattoo.
The job of all tattoo artist is to interpret and faithfully recreate the customer’s tattoo goals. These goals may be formed more by the significance the tattoo has for them than creating an image built with any firm basis in reality. You may easily find skulls adorning microphones surrounded by diamonds which alone don’t make sense, but as a tattoo can be intimately connected to an individual’s identity as a musician. Abstract arabesques and gray shaded stars might buffer the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Statue of Liberty can suddenly be right next to Yankee Stadium with the twin towers floating in the sky. There are really no limits to what can be done. Through tattoos people feel they can move closer to their place in the world and create a more seamless life for themselves. Tattoos are something unto themselves with levels of meaning that go beyond the immediate visual effect. They can be done in many different ways and adorn communities as much as they adorn an individual and each style has the power to make intimate connections between place, time, identity and belief.
– Ryan Peterson