FAQ Follow On:Twitter Google+ Facebook Tumblr subscribe by RSS or Email

Tattoos: Addicted to the Needle

|

Humans have been marking their skin permanently for thousands of years. A tattoo can be a remembrance, a constant prayer, a warning, or simply an amazing work of art. The reasons behind it can be intensely personal, decorative, whimsical, or utilitarian. It can signify tribal allegiance, life history, or nothing at all. Collected below are recent images of skin art and a few glimpses into the owners of these tattoos and their reasons for modifying their own bodies. [36 photos]

Use j/k keys or ←/→ to navigate  Choose:
Artwork on the back of Yi-jun, shown during the 2010 Taiwan International Tattoo Convention in Taipei, on July 31, 2010. The convention aimed to gather people from all over the world to promote the industry and garner positive thinking towards tattoos. (Reuters/Nicky Loh)
Artwork on the back of Yi-jun, shown during the 2010 Taiwan International Tattoo Convention in Taipei, on July 31, 2010. The convention aimed to gather people from all over the world to promote the industry and garner positive thinking towards tattoos. (Reuters/Nicky Loh)
US Army soldier Michelle Byrnes from the HHB 3-7 Field Artillery Regiment 3rd Bct 25th ID scans fingers of an Afghan man with Automated Biometric Identification System during a mission in Turkham Nangarhar, Afghanistan, on September 28, 2011. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images) #
Derek Chambers from Belfast shows his tattoo of the Titanic, aboard the MS Balmoral Titanic memorial cruise ship in the Atlantic Ocean, on April 12, 2012. Nearly 100 years after the Titanic went down, the cruise with the same number of passengers aboard set sail to retrace the ship's voyage, including a visit to the location where it sank. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) #
A man from Budapest sporting a tattoo on the back of his head, attends the 13th International tattoo convention in Frankfurt May 8, 2005. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach) #
Indian student Nikita Raut has an image of her father, Ravindra Raut, inked on her thigh at a tattoo convention in Mumbai, on June 15, 2012. The event is a showcase of tattoo art which has for centuries been used in India for religious symbolism but is now emerging as a fashion statement amongst the young and trendy urban youth. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images) #
Pathologist Dr. Ed Friedlander from Kansas City, Missouri, displays his tattoo with a medical directive to not use CPR, on September 29, 2011. Friedlander is among a growing number of people who are getting tattoos that tell doctors and first responders about their medical concerns, from chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma to allergies and more. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) #
A woman takes a rest as she has her back tattooed during the San Salvador Tattoo Fest in San Salvador, on March 3, 2012. The tattoo festival aimed to promote tattoo art in the rather conservative Salvadorean society. (Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images) #
Members of The Tainui Waka Alliance tribe welcome the return of 20 mummified tattooed Maori heads (Toi Moko) that were taken to Europe in the 1700s and 1800s, during a ceremony at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, on January 27, 2012. The tattooed heads were handed over by French officials at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris after a four-year political struggle. The Maori heads were once warriors that tattooed their faces with elaborate geometric designs to show their rank and were an object of fascination for European explorers who collected and traded them from the 18th century onwards. (Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images) #
A tattoo of Captain America drawn by artist Sean Karon on the leg of client Ron Raucci at the Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival in Virginia, on March 2, 2012. The tattoo was completed from start to finish in one five-and-a-half hour session and won the prestigious "tattoo of the day" contest. (Reuters/Jason Reed) #
Jesper Tolvers of Sweden displays his diving tattoo as he prepares to compete during the Men's 3m Springboard Diveoff at the FINA Diving World Cup at the Olympic Aquatics Center in London, on February 26, 2012. (Reuters/Toby Melville) #
Jeff Bitting (right), from St Augustine, Florida, speaks backstage with fellow full-body tattoo contestants before judging at the National Tattoo Association Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 13, 2012. In his 33 years of getting tattoos, Bitting says he has had about 500 hours of work and will complete his other leg in his bid to win more full-body contests. (Reuters/Larry Downing) #
Robert Seibert, 62, from Burlington, Kentucky, shows off his full body of tattoos, including the tribal-inspired designs he has accumulated over 40 years, during the National Tattoo Association Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 14, 2012. Of his art, Seibert says, "I'm one of the people that can't have a favorite tattoo, each is like a certain phase of my life. To me it's a picture history of what I have gone through, through the years." (Reuters/Jason Reed) #
Keisha Holcomb (right), 31, from Fort Collins, Colorado, waits in line to have her tattoos judged in a contest during the National Tattoo Association Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 13, 2012. Holcomb, the product of a military family upbringing, was 16 when she got her first tattoo and is now a budding tattoo artist herself. She wants to have a full-body tattoo eventually, with the exception of her hands, throat and head. "Try to keep it classy", she says. (Reuters/Larry Downing) #
A tattooed participant in the Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival holds her baby in Virginia, on March 3, 2012. (Reuters/Larry Downing) #
Tattoo judges inspect the tattoos of a competitor at the Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival in Virginia, on March 2, 2012. (Reuters/Larry Downing) #
Contestant Yoshi shows off the back of his full-body tattoo to judges at the National Tattoo Association Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 13, 2012. Yoshi, from Japan, was tattooed by Horiyoshi III and is a multi-award winning contestant in the world of full-body tattoos. In Cincinnati he won third place in the "Best Tattooed Male" category. Picture taken April 13, 2012. (Reuters/Jason Reed) #
A visitor to the 17th International Tattoo and Piercing Convention in the Westfalenhallen in Dortmund, Germany, is tattooed on June 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Sascha Schuermann) #
A WWII re-enactor dressed as a German soldier sports an SS Death's Head tattoo as he takes part in a mock battle as part of the two-day Maiden Newton At War 1940s re-enactment weekend in Maiden Newton, near Dorchester, England, on June 23, 2012. The quiet Dorset village of Newton Maiden was seen as a strategic hub during the Second World War and was heavily fortified against a threatened German invasion. It later saw hundreds of American servicemen quartered in the area before the D Day landings. To celebrate the village's wartime past, the biennial event, which started in 2008, has grown into one of the biggest re-enactments in the country and this year featured one of the largest convoys of Second World War vehicles seen in Dorset since D Day in 1944. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images) #
A Bruce Springsteen fan shows his tattoo at the opening concert of Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" world tour at the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, on May 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Thomas Lohnes) #
Artist Vincent Myers tattoos Wendy, age 72, in his shop in Finksburg, Maryland, on March 21, 2012. "Vinnie" Myers specializes in tattooing nipples and areolas onto women who have undergone breast cancer surgery. Using precisely mixed pigments, he creates a perfect 3-D illusion of the real thing, and in doing so, enables women who have undergone mastectomies to feel more like women once again. On average, it takes Myers two hours to complete his work, during which he will determine the color and size of the areolas of each patient. (Fabienne Faur/AFP/Getty Images) #
The tattooed forearm of athlete Karine Sergerie, as she stretches during the Ste-Foy taekwondo club's training session at St Francois school's gym in Quebec City, on May 8, 2012. Sergerie will compete on the Canadian taekwondo team in the 2012 London Olympics, in the women's 67kg division. Her tattoo reads "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us", with the Olympic rings and dates of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. (Reuters/Mathieu Belanger) #
A man tattooed with a traditional pattern from New Zealand poses at the international tattoo convention in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on March 30, 2012. (Boris Roessler/AFP/Getty Images) #
Iris (right) from Taiwan presents her tattoos at the international tattoo convention in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on March 31, 2012. (Boris Roessler/AFP/Getty Images) #
Japanese tattooist Horiyoshii III tattoos a flower on the back of a woman at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Tokyo, on May 22, 2012. Horiyoshii III is a tattoo artist renowned for his full body designs, which can take many sessions over many years to complete. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images) #
In this photo released by the Spanish Police on Saturday March 24, 2012, a tattoo in the form of a bar code is shown on the wrist of a woman. Spain´s Interior Ministry says police have arrested 22 persons of Romanian nationality on suspicion of using violence to force women into prostitution and tattooing them with bar codes as a sign of ownership. Officers freed one 19-year-old woman who had been beaten, held against her will and tattooed with a bar code and an amount of money which investigators believe was the debt the gang wished to extort before freeing her. The freed woman had the sum '2,000 euro' ($ 2,650) etched onto her skin. (AP Photo/Spanish Police) #
Former Marine Christian Ellis, 29, stands for a portrait in his apartment in Denver, on April 24, 2012. Ellis has a swash of red ink among his tattoos for every friend and Marine killed in battle or by suicide. The former Marine machine gunner, who has attempted suicide four times, is now putting his pain on stage in the first opera believed written about the Irag War. Titled "Fallujah", the opera was developed in Vancouver, Canada, by City Opera Vancouver with the help of a playwright, a composer, nine actors and an 11-member orchestra in a kind of performance laboratory. It debuted July 2 on explore.org/fallujah. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) #
A tattoo artist works during an International Congress of Tattoo Artists in Moscow, on May 18, 2012. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images) #
Katie Riopka shows a tattoo of Hebrew script that reads "I can do anything with God" at the Angel Faces retreat in Corona, California, on June 22, 2012. Angel Faces is an annual retreat for young girls with severe burns or facial disfigurement that focuses on psychological healing through group counseling, role-playing, art therapy and workshops that teach coping skills. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) #
A man shows tattoos on his body at Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Pathom province, about 80 km (50 miles) from Bangkok, on March 2, 2012. Thousands of believers from across Thailand travel to the monastery to attend the annual tattoo festival to have their bodies adorned with tattoos and to pay their respects to the temple's master tattooist. They believe the tattoos have mystical powers, warding off bad luck and protecting them from harm. (Reuters/Sukree Sukplang) #
Emilio Gonzalez from Venezuela, during a tattoo exhibition in Caracas, on January 27, 2012. (Reuters/Jorge Silva) #
A visitor to a Tattoo and Piercing Convention event shows her tattoos in Dortmund, Germany, on June 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Keystone/Sascha Schuermann) #
A protester with a face tattooed on the back of his head takes part in the "march of the million" opposition protest in central Moscow, on May 6, 2012. Russian riot police beat protesters with batons and hauled away dozens on Sunday after skirmishes broke out at a demonstration in Moscow against Vladimir Putin on the eve of his return to the presidency. (Reuters/Denis Sinyakov) #
A US Marine from Kilo Company of the 3rd Battalion 8th Marines Regiment shows his tattoo during a patrol in Garmser, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on June 27, 2012. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) #
A gang member and inmate poses for a photograph inside the jail in Quetzaltepeque, El Salvador, on May 2, 2012. Rival Salvadoran gangs announced an expansion of the terms of a truce as the Central American country grapples with a plague of violent crime that threatens to sweep the nation. (Reuters/Ulises Rodriguez) #
A former gang member has a tattoo characteristic of the Mara Salvatrucha street gang erased with an infrared ray, which burns the top layer of skin off, at a clinic in Chamelecon, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on January 28, 2008. Former gang members and other people with tattoos go through the painful process of having the tattoos removed to improve their chances of employment or to make them less easy to be identified as illegal migrants in the U.S. The gang members in the tattoo removal clinic say active gang members who have their tattoos removed are sometimes murdered by other gang members. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido) #
A man shows his tattoos as he attends the Venezuela Expo Tattoo in Caracas, Venezuela, on January 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos) #

Related links and information

Previous gallery | Next gallery | View All Back to top

Recent Entries

Join the Discussion

blog comments powered by Disqus

On Newsstands Now

Subscribe and SAVE 65%
10 issues JUST $2.45/COPY

The Atlantic Monthly

The real roots of midlife crisis, the curious case of Jesus's wife, when schools are too strict, the coming fall of Facebook, the new science of hit songs, and more