Tattoos and why they are Taboo - by Drew Loker
Here are some graphics to consider. Obviously there is a lot more than the tattoo going on with these people, but it is part of it. The challenge is, everything else can be cleaned up. But the tattoos are pretty much forever.
Another part of the challenge is that many of the people "dying to get one" have got their priorities COMPLETELY messed up.
You might wonder why I have created a page to discuss this controversial topic. As a photographer, and photography teacher, I feel compelled to address the expression of art through body painting. I understand the strong desire to express one's self...it is the same desire that compels me to shoot to share through my photography. And it has been with me for a very long time.
I think tattoos (and graffiti) has grown in popularity because most people (especially young folks) don't have a way to speak out, to make themselves heard. And tattoos & graffiti are exactly the avenue that a person seeks to make a statement, to be heard, to be unique.
The idea is reasonable, but the vehicle is flawed.
Here are a few thoughts you should carefully consider before making a decision, mainly about getting a tattoo. Graffiti, tagging private or public property, is illegal, so I am going to leave that topic alone, because if you are smart, you will recognize that the law is a good enough reason to avoid expressing yourself through that vehicle.
For those OLDER folks that currently have a tattoo, please do not be offended by these comments below as some of them are pretty strong. The bottom line is to try to discourage a young person from needlessly branding themselves before they have a chance to weigh all the facts and understand the long term consequences.
Tattoos are like picking what to wear, like a favorite shirt. Eventually it is going to wear out and/or you are going to want to change it no matter how much you liked it. If you want to make a statement, get it put on a T-Shirt or a bumper sticker...more people are likely to see it. Or, make a web page, like this...not a Facebook posting that goes away after 24-48 hours, about your feelings, or your favorite works of art. Think about it...how many people will see a tattoo on your waist line in your life? Hundreds? Granted...you could put a photo of your waist online, but you need to go back to the first part of this idea. The best way to make an impact is to put it on the Web...and you don't need to inject permanent ink into your body to do that.
Do you really want some body else's art work on your body? If you like somebody's artwork so much, take a photo of it and put it on your computer or phone desktop. You may like somebody's work today, but what will happen five years from now when you find somebody else's work that is just as or more amazing...10 times better than the first person you found. I might understand a tattoo more if it was my own art work. But even then, my masterpiece 20 years ago is subpar by my standards today. Why would I want anything but my best work on display??? Why would you do that? For example, you spend 6 months planning on a the PERFECT tattoo. You decide to put in the best place you can think of on your body. Because it was such an "important" decision, you REALLY scrutinize on who does the art work, where it goes and what the art work is. Everything goes as planned. 5 years pass, you are still happy that you did what you did. Then, 10 years from now, you have grown tired of that dragon on your forearm...it just doesn't make sense why you have a dragon with a cross running down the center of it. Now, you just wish you had a cross. Tattoo removal is not 100%. The larger more colorful it is, the more likely you will live with it the rest of your life. Other hand, mistakes happen. A student I had warned about getting a tattoo many times, got there first one, in a place that could be covered with a long shirt (what a stupid plan). After graduating, he returned, and I noticed he had ANOTHER tat, still in a place that could be covered, but it wasn't so I noticed it. I looked at it and immediately said, "what is that?" pointing out what looked like a mistake. Sure enough, it was a mistake, and he was going to have to come in with a different design to make up for the mistake. LAME!
It will never be accepted by the average, mainstream adult population. Sure, tattoos have been around since before modern civilization. It has been used through out history for a variety of reasons, from tribal distinctions, to marking prisoners and slaves. It surged in popularity during WWII with military people faced with an uncertain future. And, it is true that we live in an age of acceptance, and free will. Do what you want Mantra. And, lot's of young people are getting tattoos, more so than I recall in recent history. But the trend will reverse, just like bell bottoms and paisley shirts. Also, keep in mind that we are still in the age of the baby boomer, and they are the largest segment of the population and will be for the next 10+ years. Although they are older, and giving up positions of power in favor of the RV and other things related to retirement, there is just as conservative middle age middle management poised to take over. I also submit to you that tattoomania is largely regional. Sure, you will find it popular in places you seek out. Look at Austin, and you will see a large base of tattoos, but Austin is not the typical. According to a poll in 2012, only 21% of American adults have gotten a tattoo. That is a SMALL percentage! So, if you like sticking in the crowds where a majority of the people you hang with have tattoos, just remember, 10 years from now, things will be different. In fact, 2-3 years after high school, you will probably never see the majority of the people you hung around during high school.
It's a fad, simply put. Fads change and so will your taste. I can promise you that what you hold important today, as an 18 year old, that in 5 years from now, will probably not be important. There is a real simple test. Think about what was important to you at 13...or 8. I am willing to bet that what was REALLY important to you at 8 doesn't even exist in your possessions...at least not for the average person. Ok, one or two of you may still have that favorite doll or action figure hanging around in your room somewhere. The point is, that it is hard for you to see beyond more than a few years in your future. You don't know what you will be doing. And you don't know what your attitudes and positions will be on things. Sure, you can make for a self-fulfilling destiny, where you make yourself into any person you want, but most people grow out of childish desires, and move on to more important things in like, like a career and a family. Ok, so you want to get a heart tattoo on your ankle to remember your mom. I can appreciate having such strong feelings. Put a picture on the wall of your mom when she was the happiest, probably holding you. That is going to do a LOT better job of helping you remembering your mom. Don't want to remember your mom? Well, you get the point. Pictures do a better job. You fill in the blank what you want to remember. Just remember, strong feelings today do NOT translate into strong feelings 10 years from now.
GENERALLY (note the emphasis on GENERALLY), tattoos are an income/social status symbol and a form of expression for those that lack a way to express themselves otherwise. Keep in mind that tattoos are a symbol from a VERY long time ago. Tattoos are the mark of TRIBES. TATTOOS are given to CATTLE and PRISONERS to identify people.
Do things that will HELP you in the future. Ok, so, a tattoo may not HURT your future, especially if you are wanting to say...be a waitress the rest of your life, or hang out with the arthearts all day long, but eventually, you are going to want to "dress for success" or "put your best foot forward", or really impress somebody in a position of authority to get a job, or a promotion. And in all but a very narrow area, will tattoos be listed as an asset. Keep in mind the overwhelming idea that today, you may not be able to see a day in your future that it will matter. But that is just today.
Just because your parents have them, doesn't mean it is right for you. I hear the argument ALL THE TIME that it hasn't been an issue for their parents. This is a STUPID argument. If your parents didn't go to college, does that mean it is ok for you to skip college? Of course not. Most mature adults will tell you that you need to go to college ESPECIALLY if your parents didn't go. Similarly, if your parents smoke, or went to jail, obviously that doesn't make it right for you. So why would the fact that they have a tattoo make it right for you? It doesn't. In fact, you should realize that tattoos put on skin in your teens, will not look the same in your 40s, period.
Bottom line? Express yourself in your accomplishments. Learn to express yourself in what you do for other people and society in general. Be an asset, not a liability.
My recommendation is that if you REALLY, really want a tattoo, what until you are 20, well past the age of legality. See what is important to you then. Things might just be a little different by then.