Manchester International Tattoo Show

I don’t have any tattoos but I’ve thought about getting one on and off for the last ten years or so. When I was at uni in Preston I’d spend my lunchtimes in Wise Cafe (no longer there unfortunately), with a brew, looking across the street at what I considered to be a perfect microcosm of my temporary home town. In the same row of buildings, right next to each other, was a pub, followed by a tattoo parlour, followed by a sex shop. The next shop along was a florists and the next after that was a bridal gown boutique. At the time I wasn’t sure how these last two establishments fitted into my little microcosm but now that I’m married I can see how the pub might lead to the bridal gown boutique via the other three…

So anyway, I digress, I’d often look across the street and think to myself ‘one of these days I’m going to finish my brew and go get a tattoo’, but I never did. Partly because I was a financially bereft student and partly because I didn’t know what to have done. I felt like the tattoo should mean something or be symbolic of some aspect of me and didn’t want to have something done that might lose its strength of meaning over time. I’m getting there slowly but surely though and have some pretty good ideas now, I think. Maybe by the time I’m 50 I’ll have definitely made up my mind, just in time to coincide with the motorbike and the facelift.

I have been fascinated by tattoos and tattooing ever since my uni days and felt that a trip to the Manchester International Tattoo Show, held annually in early August at Manchester Central, would make for an interesting and engaging photo study and would help me to learn a little be more about it.

The event is attended by tattoo artists from all over the world, all of which are incredibly talented and only too willing to display their skills on any members of the paying public who happened to be much less indecisive about what they wanted doing than me (that would be most of them then). Indeed, the paying public were very much spoiled for choice with most styles of tattooing covered from traditional old school to black and grey to tribal to realism to post modern to Japanese. In short, if you could imagine it, and you could take the pain, then it could be tattooed on your skin before the weekend was out.

Speaking of pain… Different folks deal with it differently, or so I have learned. Some folks don’t bat an eyelid. Some folks look like they’re permanently in the zone, trying to block out the discomfort with all the concentration they can muster. Some folks get a bright red face. Some folks just don’t like it at all, however much they love the end result. It can’t be too bad though, like the wife says about childbirth – if it hurt that much nobody would ever have more than one – and I don’t think I saw anyone getting their first tattoo the whole time I was there.

The one thing that impressed me the most about my experience was how open everybody that I met was. Without exception, nobody asked me not to take their picture and every single person that I spoke to was more than happy to tell me about their tattoos and where and why they had them done. I’m 99.9% sure that I was the only person there that didn’t have a tattoo and during the course of talking to the people that I photographed not once did I feel like I was just being humoured. Salt of the earth, I believe the phrase is.

Anyways, here’s a small selection of the photographs I took. Hope you like them. Thanks for reading!

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