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.
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.
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.
Tattoo judges inspect the tattoos of a competitor at the Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival in Virginia, on March 2, 2012
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.