Following on from my second photo shoot it was time to focus on my final theme for this module, to complete my work in progress portfolio.
As in my previous photo shoot, this was a combination of film and digital photos, so this time I wanted to focus on a tattoo artist called Marcus Yeun, who is also based at the 59 Tattoo & barbershop in Kwa Wan, Hong Kong.
Tatto art has been visible in my barbershop photoshoots from 2017, so it was time to see how this Art form fitted into the hair cutting and hair grooming scene.
As well as learning more about this Art and the background to this profession, I also wanted to see if there was any indication that Tattoo Art was influencing barbershop culture or the other way around. I also wanted to find out more about the lifestyle around tattoo artists. Skin and hair have an obvious link and Barbershops and Tattoo Art is often together in the same shop.
In an interview by Cate Lineberry with Joann Fletcher a research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain, I discovered some fascinating facts about tattoo art. (Lineberry, 2007) “In terms of tattoos on actual bodies, the earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old.” An article by Tattoo CONCIERGE also documented the details.
(Tattoo CONCIERGE, 2017) “In 1991 Otzi the ice man made the headlines of newspapers all over the world when his frozen body was discovered on a mountain between Austria and Italy. This is the best-preserved corpse of that period ever found. The skin bears 57 tattoos: a cross on the inside of the left knee, six straight lines 15 centimetres long above the kidneys and numerous parallel lines on the ankles. For centuries the Berbers in mountainous regions of North Africa used this kind of therapeutic tattoo to treat rheumatic pains”
In more recent past Tattoos as far as I remember were usually favoured or accustomed to being on male bodies, but in more recent modern times we see today (see pic above) this is by no means a male-dominated form of Body Art just as it was in Egyptian times.
Before my photoshoot with Marcus, I arranged an interview to ask some questions about his practice and life around the Tattoo scene. The interview was quite in depth and he spoke about many aspects of how he began his work. I will expand on his words more in a future project, so I wanted to get a feel for the life and practice to inform me on how to photograph him and his work and environment.
I asked Marcus how he began his work and what inspired him.
“I was mostly self-taught when I began to learn tattoo art in Hong Kong at the beginning, as the tattoo shops did not offer any apprenticeship opportunity at that time. The rental price was high for tattoo business premises and I can only afford to buy one machine and needles to work and learn by myself at home. I practised my tattoo skills on pigskin and my leg for starters.
I observed the techniques from other tattoo artists when I got my own tattoos, then I practice the skills by myself afterwards.
My story starts with my drawing class; I went to a tattoo shop with my classmate who wants to get a tattoo. The tattoo artist offered an apprentice opportunity to me and promised to teach me the authentic tattoo techniques. So I started my tattoo practice in 2012. My family did not support me at the beginning as tattoo culture at that time represented a kind of gangster culture and was not seen as a good way to living in Hong Kong.
I tried to persuade my family that tattoo is an art like painting on the skin and my mom allowed me to try. I showed her my effort and I received her trust when I opened my own shop. My mom expressed that she has never seen I work so happily, and this made her happy.
I have had three years training before I started my own shop. I like to travel to other countries and cities to meet up some tattoo artists and learned from them. This allows me to observe their tattoo techniques and advance my skills since Hong Kong is a small place with limited tattoo techniques and styles with fewer competitions.
I was inspired by some classic tattoo artists who became popular in the 1950s and the 1960s. In that old generation, needles and machines in tattoo were not well designed with limited colour ink in the market than nowadays. So, I believe that we can do a better job in old-school tattoo style with today’s tattoo technology in order to respect to those masters.”
What struck me about Marcus was his passion for his work and his work ethic and the way he wanted to continue learning more.
Do you think your Tattoo artworks are influenced by the barbers or vice versa?
“I may get some inspiration when some new hairstyles become trends. Some barber clients may want a tattoo after cutting their hair, and tattoo client may request a haircut after a tattooing. We can see a link and connection in between barbering and tattoo.”
“people with tattoos in the shop most are our friends. But this area is just a local community with lots of old people. My friends like the style here and just come for chilling.”
I began my photo shoot outside of the barbershop to capture the essence of his character in his relaxed environment and then moved inside of the Tattoo workshop area to finish.
There were a number of motorbikes outside the shop, and I finally found out which bike belongs to who, so I began.
Lineberry, C. (2007). Tattoos. [online] Smithsonian. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/tattoos-144038580/ [Accessed 16 Nov. 2017].
Tattoo CONCIERGE, T. (2017). A Short History Of Tattooing | The Tattoo Concierge. [online] Tattoo Concierge. Available at: https://www.tattooconcierge.com/the-guide/history-of-tattooing/ [Accessed 9 Nov. 2017].