The 1950's gave birth to a new subculture of Rock n' Roll and rebels. Teenagers were developing a new voice to break through the pristine repression of society. "Greasers" were stereotyped as the new breed of juvenile delinquents. With slicked hair, tight jeans, leather jackets and motorcycle boots, a Greaser would not be complete without his rebel trademark the tattoo. Getting a tattoo is the last necessary element to prove toughness and machismo.
Kitch film maker John Waters was well versed in the uprising subculture while growing up in Baltimore during the '50s. Waters included these elements while creating his teen parody Cry Baby.
The classic Romeo and Juliet story is surrounded with a strong division between the working class "Drapes" and uptight traditionalist known as "Squares". Johnny Depp debuts in the musical role as Cry Baby, who falls in love with Alison the Square. The teary-eyed renegade is forced to challenge the town bully to prove his love and win the girl.
Here is the "Soft Power" Tattooed Lady spread in the April Issue of Black Book Magazine. It's the story of the Upper East side meets West Village tattoo shop. I used a combination of my personal collection of custom tattoos and Temptu Pro Transfers to complete the sleeves in just a few hours.
Photography: Jason Kim
Styling: Christopher Campbell @ Atelier Management
Tattoo Art: Jenai Chin
Hair: Owen Gould @ The Wall Group
Make up: Maki H. @ The Wall Group
Manicure: Kelly B. @ DeFacto
Model: Katie Fogarty @ Next
The tribal tattoos of the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand were one of the first discovered by modern civilization. The spiral facial markings consist of distinctive line patterns with deep scarred grooves that are known as Tā moko. Most of the high-ranking officials were adorned with tattoos to distinguish them from the lower status members of the society. For both men and women of the tribes, receiving their moko tattoos meant the transcendence between childhood to adulthood involving many ancient rituals. Other than rank and status, the exotic markings were used to attract the opposite sex to seduce a mate. This was unlike anything the European culture had ever seen and became a fascinating enigma. Even though the discovery was introduced into Europe in the early 1800's, it wasn't until recently that tribal tattooing had a global explosion and impact on the modern development in the tattoo culture.
The tradition of the Tā moko tattoos have been resurrected into the modern generation as a sign of proud cultural identity as seen in the 1994 drama, Once Were Warriors.
In the urban setting of New Zealand, the dysfunction of the Heke family is bursting at the seams. Temuera Morrison plays Jake, the alcoholic father who surrounds his family with explosive violence and dangerous individuals. Beth is the wife and mother portrayed by Rena Owen who is trying to cope with the abuse and poverty plaguing the family. Her youngest son is in trouble with the law with threats of being removed from the home to be placed in foster care. After becoming distant from the family, the eldest son is running with a street gang. When the serious problem is revealed about their daughter, Beth is determined to keep her family together after tragedy strikes.
zzzZZZZZZRRRRrrreeeekkkk!!!! The sound of a tattoo machine can be intimidating but it isn't very often the tattoo artist is a crazed maniac obsessed with covering your entire body with tattoos.
In the 1981 thriller Tattoo, Bruce Dern plays Karl Kinsky, a soft spoken tattoo artist who is commissioned to paint temporary tattoos on models for a fashion shoot (wink, wink). Maddy is one of the models and is intrigued with the mysterious tattoo artist. Karl quickly becomes obsessed with her beauty, his perfect canvas. Determined to have her wear his eternal mark, she is kidnapped and held hostage. While she is in captivity, Karl completes his full body masterpiece. After viewing her tattoo covered body, Maddy devises a plan to escape, ending in a deadly fight for freedom.
Discovering this movie had a profound influence on my career. The idea of someone creating temporary tattoos for films blew my mind! As a young artist still finding my voice, I began working closely with Temptu, the original creators of the tattoos in film. I fell madly in love with the endless possibilities of temporary tattoos. Through the years, I have dedicated my skills to developing a unique niche of creating tattoo imagery both on and off the camera. So far I haven't kidnapped anyone...or have I?
In Russian prisons, a man's entire life is written on his body. Without tattoos he does not exist. Most Russian criminals carry a collection complex symbols which involve a great deal of detailed information giving full disclosure of their family life and past criminal activities. The placement of these marks on the body hold just as much significance as the symbols themselves.
Similar to other members of organized crime, the Russian Mafia uses tattoos to identify it's members and their ranking status. Boasting of unearned tattoos is a punishable offense leading to involuntarily removal of painful acid procedures. Forceable tattoos to the forehead is a common source of punishment to publicly humiliate and clearly identify those who have broke the "criminal code".
The gritty reality of these marks in the criminal underworld are brought to light in the movie Eastern Promises. The story begins with the heartbreaking journey from the diary of a pregnant Russian teenage prostitute who dies during childbirth. After discovering the journal, a determined mid-wife follows the clues that lead to revealing the girls rape, drug use and involvement with the Russian Mafia.
Viggo Mortensen portrays a Russian gangster using his body as a criminal storybook. Each tattoo on his body represents the details of his background and imprisonments that eventual achieve a new ranking in the mob family. This on-screen tattoo process was one of the most authentic I have seen in a film.
Grindhouse movies exploded onto cinema with a style of soft-core sexplotation films in Japan. The cult genre known as Pink Films or Pinky Violence had it's height of success in the mid-60's to the late 70's. The cinematography and presence of powerful female roles have had a large influence on today's film makers. This is evident in the movie Kill Bill by director Quentin Tarantino.
Pink films are known to be sexed up bad girl action films with stories of betrayal and revenge. These strong sexy women were often depicted with extensive tattoos. When these ladies flashed their recognizable ink to a rival gang they made it clear that they were about to kick some ass. Till this day tattoos in Japan are associated with organized crime members of the Yakuza.
One of my favorite examples is the Female Yakuza Tale, Teruo Ishii’s sequel to Sex and Fury. The movie opens with actress Reiko Ike proudly revealing her tattoos with sword in hand ready to reek havoc on her enemies. *Slight Spoiler* The movie ends in a full blown Yakuza massacre headed by an army of naked swordswomen. It's an epic finale of blood and guts!
Not only do I love the movies, I am obsessed with films that feature tattoos.
March Movie Month will be dedicated to Tattoos in Film in which I will discuss tattoo moments in cinema.
For decades several different cultures have featured tattoos in many genres. Most of the tattoos in movies are temporary and painted with makeup which evolved into the creation of tattoo transfers. When an actor is required to wear one or several tattoos it can amplify the mood and energy of the character in the film.
A perfect example is Robert De Niro in the iconic remake Cape Fear. Robert De Niro plays the pyschopathic ex-con Max Cady, a convicted rapist seeking vengeance on Sam Bowden, the public defender who locked him away for 14 years. De Niro was covered in gritty, jailhouse style tattoos with Biblical phrases of betrayal and vengeance created by Temptu.
Check back for the next movie installment!