In the United States, approximately one in five adults currently sport at least one tattoo. Societies have used body art, and more specifically tattoos, as an avenue of self expression for generations. However, tattoos have not always been as widely accepted or as popular as they are today. As body art continues to evolve, as does the range of perspectives towards tatoos, and the spectrum of design and meaning behind each person’s unique piece of art.

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Photos by Ryan Gwyn and Grace Rowell

Photos by Ryan Gwyn and Grace Rowell

Photos by Ryan Gwyn and Grace Rowell

Photos by Ryan Gwyn and Grace Rowell


























What was your reason for getting a tattoo?

Clia: I have always wanted a tattoo. Actually when the millenium happened, I went to go get [a tattoo] and I totally chickened out. When I was 35 and I was living in San Diego, my sister-in-law visited me and she had a tattoo … so she took me.

Caroline: My reason for getting a tattoo was to emphasize my teen angst before I turned 18, and to get attention.

Allie: The meaning behind it.

Chris: I got my first tattoo because it’s kind of a family thing. My brother started it off, he got a tattoo that represents us siblings, and then my sister got one. When I turned 18, I got one too.

Abby: I got the same one as two of my cousins. We live across the country from each other and don’t get to see each other a lot, so it was something we could always have, and be able to [use to] think about each other.

How does your tattoo affect interactions with others?

Clia: I am in wellness, and in the wellness field it does not [affect others]. In yoga and in meditation, a tattoo definitely does not impact negatively, but there are absolutely categories of jobs where a tattoo could have a negative impact.

Caroline: My tattoo is sort of hidden from people so usually people don’t see it, but when I wear certain shirts you can see it or if I’m in a bathing suit. People are always like ‘What does that mean?’ and that’s the part I hate the most because I got it for a dumb reason and now I have to tell people what it means, even though I just think it looks kinda cute. I wish they would just leave me alone.

Allie: With people my age, most people compliment me on it. Older people have made comments about ‘How are you going to get a job?’ or ‘Is that going to be there forever?’

Chris: Most people like it or don’t say anything about it, so I wouldn’t say it affects my interactions with them. However some members of the older generations of my family have negative reactions about it, like my mom.

Abby: People ask about [the stick and poke] sometimes if they notice it, but usually people don’t notice it since it’s pretty hidden.

Did your parents Approve of your tattoo?

Clia: Well, I was 35 when I got my first tattoo and I was 48 when I got my second I think so my parents really didn’t have anything to say about it, but when they found out I got a tattoo, they were surprised.

Caroline: My parents disapproved of my tattoo, especially when they first saw it. But, they now don’t care.

Allie: My parents sort of disapproved. My mom wanted me to get something that I could see, but mine is on the back of my neck. My dad didn’t really care.

Chris: My mom wasn’t happy at first, she thought I wasn’t going to get any tattoos. But after a while she got over it and just accepted it.

Abby: My parents do not approve at all. They don’t support having tattoos because they think it’s permanent. Mine fades over time.

Do you ever regret getting a tattoo?

Clia: No I do not regret it. I think it’s really fun.

Caroline: I don’t regret my tattoo. I got another one after my first [tattoo] that’s just a little circle on my hip which I got with my best friend. But, I do wish I had gotten something else.

Allie: No.

Chris: I don’t regret getting a tattoo.

Abby: No I do not.

What is the meaning of your tattoo?

Clia: My tattoo is a cross. My faith is really important to me so I always have a reminder.

Caroline: I thought it could symbolize “and life goes on,” so it looks like ‘& life goes on’.

Allie: The lotus flower grows out of the mud, and so it symbolizes something beautiful coming out of something ugly. My lotus flower represents the hard times that I have overcome in my life. It doesn’t matter the situation that you are put into, something beautiful can always come out of it.

Chris: The first tattoo I got was four roses, symbolizing my siblings. I chose roses because my mom always has a rose garden out in the front yard.

Abby: Its two little Xs put together, and what it means is chromosomes, which is the family part of it, but also xoxo, kisses and hugs, to show that we love each other.