The World Atlas Of Tattoo: Exploring A World Of Ink

jentheripper in Guides

If there is one tattoo book to have on your shelves, it is the World Atlas of Tattoo.

This art book was written by tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman of tattoohistorian.com. A writer and tattoo enthusiast, Friedman is exploring tattoo art from its historic roots to its contemporary development, on a global scale. Indeed, she has selected a thousand of tattoo artists worldwide, in each continents, to give a good overview of what's going on in the tattoo community. Published by the Yale University Press, the book is a solid work of researches that every tattoo lovers would enjoy reading.

The World Atlas of Tattoo by Anna Felicity Friedman, Yale University Press.
The World Atlas of Tattoo by Anna Felicity Friedman, Yale University Press.

The language of the skin "Tattoo is one of the most eloquent and intricate ways to speak without words" states Friedman. She explores all the discussions allowed by tattoo art. From the interaction between people of different cultures that helped the development of tattoo art in history, to the connection between traditions and our modern world, as well as personal conversation with ourselves, The World Atlas of Tattoo is all about the language of the bodies, especially the inked ones.

El Salvador gang tattoos. Credits: Jan Sochor Alamy.
El Salvador gang tattoos. Credits: Jan Sochor Alamy.

The book also suggests that "tattoos connect you to your family, town and culture." In North and South America, tattoo art is the way of expression of the different communities, building solid bounds between people but also opening them to other cultures.

Some North American tattoo artists featured in the book and worth knowing: BJ Betts (lettering, Delaware), Megan Hoogland (Minnesota), Kore Flatmo (Ohio), Miya Bailey (Georgia), Nick Baxter (biomechanical, Texas), Jose Lopez (chicano, California), Riki Kay Middleton (Canada), Safwan (Canada).

Work by Stephanie Tamez (New York, USA).
Work by Stephanie Tamez (New York, USA).

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When discussing with ourselves, between the personality and the body, our tattoo artist "joins a conversation in progress. When you choose a tattoo, you reveal something about yourself that is already there, even if it's only a hope". That's why some artists are also using spiritual and heart as tools. Shannon Purvis Barron from South Carolina is giving their feminity back to breast cancer survivors while Caro Wilson, in Europe, is creating abstract art in harmony with her clients. Sometimes, tattooing is more about humanity than art.

The work of Huzz, a tattoo artist from the United Arab Emirates.
The work of Huzz, a tattoo artist from the United Arab Emirates.

The book also features interesting tattoo artists from the African continent. If tattoo is a taboo in many Eastern religions, it doesn't prevent these artists to break the laws and offer ink of quality to their clients, irregardless of their faith and culture. These artists are joining the conversation about world peace.

Some African tattoo artists featured in the book and worth knowing: Poli Somalomo (Congo), Sam Ije (Benin), Shaun Dean (South Africa), Rasty Knayles (South Africa), Razzouk Family (Israel), Huzz (United Arab Emirates).

Gorgeous portrait by Manjeet Singh, tattoo artist in India.
Gorgeous portrait by Manjeet Singh, tattoo artist in India.

Perpetuating a tradition and being proud of an heritage Tattoo history is global, and linked to the history of humanity, as shown in the archeological and historical documents gathered by Friedman. "Even with an art as personal as tattooing, we live always in the public world, in culture and in history" she says.

Libyan men with tattoos from the Tomb of Seti l as drawn by Carl Richard Lepsius 1842-45. Credits: Razzouk Family.
Libyan men with tattoos from the Tomb of Seti l as drawn by Carl Richard Lepsius 1842-45. Credits: Razzouk Family.
Tattoos by Sutherland Macdonald, 1890s. Credits: Anna Felicity Friedman.
Tattoos by Sutherland Macdonald, 1890s. Credits: Anna Felicity Friedman.

Many tattoo artists and tattoo lovers in the world are keeping the art of their ancestors alive, gathering documents of the ancient tattoo designs and inking them on contemporary bodies. The survival of traditional ethnic tattoo has became, for many cultures, the symbol of their own survival. South American tattoo lovers are especially linked to the art of the Aztecs, Mayans and Amazon rainforest people.

Some South American tattoo artists featured in the book and worth knowing: Pedro Alvarez (Mexico), Sanya Youalli (Mexico), Stomper (Mexico), Nazareno Tubaro (Argentina), Miguel Dark (Colombia).

Tattoo artist Sanya Youalli, Mexico, explores the art of ancient South American tattoos, from Aztecs to Amazon forest.
Tattoo artist Sanya Youalli, Mexico, explores the art of ancient South American tattoos, from Aztecs to Amazon forest.

In Europe, the history of tattoo is divided between the remains of the civilizations of Antiquity, and the reign of Christianity and body art as a taboo. But, religious art, as well as Fine Arts, are also references for tattoo artists, keeping the heritage of European culture and history alive.

Tattoo artist Mikaël de Poissy, France, is collecting in his studio the stained-glass windows and classic art he uses as reference for his tattoos. Credits: Mikaël de Poissy.
Tattoo artist Mikaël de Poissy, France, is collecting in his studio the stained-glass windows and classic art he uses as reference for his tattoos. Credits: Mikaël de Poissy.
Tattoo artist Colin Dale, Denmark, revives the traditions of Viking tattoo art.
Tattoo artist Colin Dale, Denmark, revives the traditions of Viking tattoo art.

Now, tattoo has survived the prohibition of religions. From a subculture, it is becoming mainstream with the help of medias and internet. The knowledge of our ancestors and veterans of tattoo are communicated to the younger generations for them to learn it and teach it again.

Whang-od is the last tattoo artist to practice the traditional hand-poked tattoo of the Philippines.
Whang-od is the last tattoo artist to practice the traditional hand-poked tattoo of the Philippines.

After centuries of disappearance, the traditional tattoo art of the Pacific, tatau, is now reviving, with people proudly wearing the ink of their ancestors, but also leaving their own mark in history.

Some Oceanian tattoo artists featured in the book and worth knowing: Keone Nunes (Hawaii), Aisea Toetu'u (Hawaii), Rodney Ni Powell (Hawaii), Mark Kopua (New Zealand), Steve Ma Ching (New Zealand), Sulu'ape Family (Samoa), Ade Itameda (Indonesia), Ernesto Kalum of the Borneo Headhunters (Malaysia) but also the new generation, Alison Manners and Benjamin Laukis (Australia).

The work of tattoo artist Keone Nunes, Hawaii. Credits: Dallas Nagata White Photography.
The work of tattoo artist Keone Nunes, Hawaii. Credits: Dallas Nagata White Photography.

Liberating from the codes and unleashing creativity If graphic and avant-garde tattoo are now spreading worldwide, the phenomenon started in old Europe. Inspired by modern and abstract painting, these artists are liberating themselves from the codes of ethnic and old school tattoo. They create unique and creative types of tattoos that are pushing the boundaries and putting body art on the same level as other types of art.

Amanda Wachob, New York, get inspiration from modern art to find her own creativity.
Amanda Wachob, New York, get inspiration from modern art to find her own creativity.
Simone Pfaff and Volker Merschky, Germany, created their own style of tattoo, the Realistic Trash Polka (c).
Simone Pfaff and Volker Merschky, Germany, created their own style of tattoo, the Realistic Trash Polka (c).

Some European tattoo artists featured in the book and worth knowing: Dan Sinnes (Luxembourg), Mikaël de Poissy (France), Nuno Costah (Portugal), Sake (Greece), Deno, Chris Lambert and Claudia de Sabe (UK), Susanne König (Netherlands), Karolina Czaja and Victor Portugal (Poland), Zele (Croatia).

The unique art of Peter Aurisch, Germany.
The unique art of Peter Aurisch, Germany.

The Asian traditional tattoo is a reference in the world. And it is also still a taboo, considered as marginal and even subversive, in many Asian countries. But the young generation is rebelling against the standards and even liberating itself from the heritage of Asian culture. If some artists as using the techniques and classic design of traditional art to create modern tattoos, some are more inspired by contemporary Asia and creating their own idea of art.

Joey Pang, Hong Kong, is using old technique such as sumi-e to create contemporary tattoos.
Joey Pang, Hong Kong, is using old technique such as sumi-e to create contemporary tattoos.

Some Asian tattoo artists featured in the book and worth knowing: Joey Pang and Leon Lam (Hong-Kong), Tang Ping (China), Elson Yeo (Singapore), Taku Oshima, Genko (Japan), Danis Nguyen (Vietnam), Manjeet Shingh (India), Mohan Gurung (Nepal).

Little Swastika, Germany, is pushing the boundaries of that personal art.
Little Swastika, Germany, is pushing the boundaries of that personal art.
Geometry is the tool for avant-garde artists, connecting past and future. Credits: Nazareno Tubaro, Argentina.
Geometry is the tool for avant-garde artists, connecting past and future. Credits: Nazareno Tubaro, Argentina.
Join the movement... Credits: Roxx, San Francisco.
Join the movement... Credits: Roxx, San Francisco.
Taku Oshima, Japan.
Taku Oshima, Japan.
Tang Ping , China.
Tang Ping , China.
Robert Borbas, Hungary.
Robert Borbas, Hungary.
Zulu, Los Angeles.
Zulu, Los Angeles.

Now, as a tattoo lover, what place do you want to have in the global tattoo conversation?

jentheripper

@JenTheRipper

Writer for art related medias. Fell in love with tattoo while researching for another passion, crime history. Travelling, admiring, sharing.

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