Marks to prove it

Kristopher Cook spent a day with tattoo artists to hear the stories behind the ink

What was once a tradition most associated with sailors and convicts is now a form of free expression that has seen people from all walks of life step through the doors of a tattoo parlour, only to leave with a piece of art embedded into their skin.

But what possesses someone to get a tattoo? Is it a lust for pain? A fashion statement? Or a constant reminder of a feeling once lost in memory? To help me gain a better understanding, I spent a day at Arthur T. Sharpe’s Tattoo Emporium in Heaton, Newcastle – a mainstay of the north east tattoo community for the last nine years.

Photography by Michael Baister

Photography by Michael Baister

From the old fashioned dentist’s chair in the window, to the Chinese Gollum statues guarding the reception desk, there isn’t a space or object inside that doesn’t scream offbeat style and culture.

With a varied collection of tattoos running all the way down his forearms, store manager Jack explains that at Arthur T’s, it’s as much about the people as the tattoos. “The people who walk into the shop are just as interesting as the tattoo they want done. Even the people you’d least expect to have tattoos are getting them done.”

With tattoos, everyone remembers the first time. For some, that rst tattoo can be a reminder of a regretful drunken escapade in Magaluf. But for first customer of the day Mark, his first tattoo was also his most meaningful. He lifts his shirt, revealing lines of text running down the side of his abdomen and finishing just above his pelvis. “It’s a reading from my dad’s funeral,” he explains. “Tattoos are just a way of expressing yourself and can be a reminder of a memory or a person.”


Read the full version in The Northern Correspondent #8