As a female photographer who has nursed a (not so secret) longing for a tattoo but never dared to take the plunge, I often find myself relegated to admiring the ink I spy in public - in bars, on the L train, strolling the streets, even at the office. This short series gave me an opportunity to ask the questions that I, like so many others, have always wanted to know when confronted with a truly beautiful piece of body art. What made her choose that text? Did it hurt? And above all - what does that tattoo really 'mean'?! A heartfelt thanks goes out to the five women I was fortunate enough to interview. Long live their courage!
Number of Tattoos: 5
First tattoo: 17
Open to more ink: Yes
I got my first tattoo while visiting a friend in San Antonio, Texas. We were both 17, cruising around in my Cadillac CTS, blasting rap music. One of the lines really inspired us; it seemed to capture that moment, that feeling of adolescent angst.
After our matching ink, my friend and I fell out of touch but the shared memory of living in the moment will always be cherished.
Number of Tattoos: 2
First tattoo: 18
Open to more ink: Yes, but it would have to be pretty compelling.
My first tattoo was a real bitch to get. The illustration was inspired by an art class, during that class I fell in love with the image of a dragon. I was 15, and it was a hugely significant year in my life. My parents got divorced and the process was incredibly painful.
At first, I just thought the dragon was really cool. Dragons possess a hard body which nothing can penetrate. They breathe fire, they're powerful.
Getting through my parents' divorce made me a stronger person, and, to me, the dragon symbolized that new-found strength.
Of course, it wasn't that easy. I wanted to get the tattoo desperately at 17, but I come from a Jewish family and my mom was dead-set against it. The moment I turned 18, I grabbed my boyfriend, and we went right to the tattoo parlor.
He was my first "serious" relationship although we had only been together for a year. A year in high school though, can seem like forever. My boyfriend was very insistent about having his name incorporated into my tattoo (note he was not offering to have my name tattooed on his body) so the whole thing became hugely contentious. I tried to compromise by having the fingers of the dragon spell out his name in sign language but he said that wasn't enough.
In the end I got the tattoo I wanted, and we broke up shortly after.
I got my first tattoo when I was 19 and a student at Wesleyan University. I went with two of my girlfriends from school and we all ended up getting the same tattoo, of a small sunflower, in different places.
To me, the idea of getting something permanent was exciting. I had always been a thrill seeker and I saw this as an expression of freedom.
The placement of my sunflower, however, held deeper significance. I had a lot of body image issues, my stomach in particular. I became so obsessed about it, that I wouldn't let anyone touch it. Not lovers, not anybody. It was a forbidden zone.
I did want to pick a place on my body that I could conceivably cover up if I needed to, but at the same time, placing it in an area that had been the source of such agony made me feel vulnerable in an exciting way.
The quality was terrible, we called the tattoo the "sad sunflower" and it stayed like that for a long time.
One major career change, a marriage, two children, and several tattoos later, I decided to revisit the sunflower. At that point I had a tattoo artist I felt a deep connection with and his vision of expanding upon that sunflower to make a truly stunning piece was spot-on. I absolutely love it.
Morgan & Lindsay: Twins
Number of Tattoos: "Enough"
First Tattoo: 16
Morgan: We got our first tattoo when we were 16. We were living in London and I think that was the legal limit at the time.
The tattoo was based off of a pendant our grandparents gave us when we were born. It was one of those pendants you break apart, Lindsay got the sun and I got the moon.
We were leaving each other for the first time, going to university in separate states in America, so it was important to us to get these tattoos together before we left.
Lindsay: We had our tattoos done at a department store called Selfridges. I will always have a bone to pick with the tattoo artist because, while Morgan's moon actually looks like a moon, my sun got screwed up; my sun has a pointy top. Thanks to him, people ask me if it's a peanut. Despite the peanut questions, I really do like it because it reminds me of my sissy! The artist probably won't win any awards but I love my tattoo - it's endearingly done, I love what it means.
Morgan: Despite being the first, it is still my favorite tattoo and makes me feel connected to my sister.
Tell us about your first! Tweet us @wewomenUSA.
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