My daughter Sarah was my partner for our trip to Boston. She took lots of photographs, which I hope to get posted soon. The following is her “guest post” about her Ink and Skin: Word Made Flesh experience in Boston.
Tattoos are a very interesting concept. They permanently ink your skin with a picture, words, or whatever someone has the desire to get. Some people get them because they think they are tough looking, or that they make them look cool. Other people get them because they want something that will be a constant reminder of a memory or a person. When I agreed to be my dad’s (amateur) photographer for the trip to Boston, I knew what he had in mind for the whole “tattoo stories” idea, but I didn’t know how much would actually happen. He had told me about how people would “open up” about the stories behind their tattoos.
I have a fondness for tattoos, just as my dad does, but in a different way. I want to get them, he likes hearing the stories. When we got on the train, we found a woman in the observation car sitting and reading a book. My dad had already started up a conversation with her when I walked in, and he had told her about his idea. She started to talk about people that she knew that got tattoos to commemorate family or friends that they had lost.
When we arrived in Boston, we went to the Seafarer’s Mission, which allowed for us to talk to some of the people that worked in and around the ships. It was there that we met Julia, who was a dockworker.. Julia probably had the most interesting tattoos that I have ever seen on someone. My personal favorites were the cats that she had tattooed on her hands. As we talked to her, we found out that most of her ink was dedicated to family members and friends, many of whom she had lost. She explained that she had lost a lot of people in her life, and tattoos were her way of remembering them. She had stories behind every one of her tattoos, some serious, and some rendering, “I went to a shop that didn’t do as great of a job on this idea that I had, so I had it covered up with a giant Aztec-like black bar. I told myself I would never get a tribal tattoo, but looks like I ended up with one.” Julia described tattoos not only as her way of commemorating people, but as an addiction. She loved getting tattoos, and that they were her way of expressing herself.
When we came back the next day, we talked to a guy named Kevin, who was another dockworker. Kevin’s storytelling was really the one that opened my eyes as to what my dad was talking about. All we did was ask him about his tattoo on his forearm, and he opened up and told us all about the story of his mother’s passing. He told us about the struggles that not only she went through in her battle with cancer, but also his personal struggles during and following her death. It was amazing that someone that we had never talked to before would be so open about sharing that kind of personal information, simply because we asked about his tattoo. Before then, I had never really witnessed what my dad was talking about when he introduced the idea of people opening up and sharing when asked about their tattoos.
It’s amazing how much a pattern of ink can mean to a person.