It's almost as if tattooers are evolving, finally able to set aside trivialities in order to agree upon the more important issues. All this TLC outrage is kind of encouraging. Not simply because people are pissed, but because pissed people can affect change.
It reminds me of the "alien invasion" metaphor which, in movie scripts, successfully manages to unite all mankind against the invading forces that threaten humanity's very existence! A sleepy community wakes up and starts fighting back. The parallels are amusing...
This is going to be difficult for many to ponder, but maybe we've been wrong about something all along. We've sat around these last six years doing nothing but complaining and look where that's gotten us. Maybe instead of complaining we should start thinking and acting together, with purpose?
Maybe it's time to wake up a little bit and recognize that it's all up to us.
Problem #1: Apathy
There's a common misconception in our community that if nobody does anything with the media, it'll all just go away and tattooing will be okay.
I hate to point out the obvious, but most tattooers are doing nothing already and tattooing is definitely not okay. I humbly submit that what tattooing desperately needs is more people willing to do something rather than nothing. We need courageous and creative tattooers to step forward now like never before. All this Internet outrage could be symptomatic of a much deeper and more challenging tendency within our larger community, apathy.
We like to pretend that complaining contributes something of importance to a situation. But it doesn't. Complaining does not alter a situation, not unless it leads to creative thought and creative action.
And the sad reality is that the master complainers, those who really make an art of it, are often the subtle leaders of our community. I love a good yarn as much as the next guy, but it's like the official language of tattooing sometimes. We all know how it goes and I'm guilty of it too!
But we could be so much more productive with our time and that energy.
Problem #2: Limited Perspectives
There are primarily two stances that an average tattooer might take on the subject of the media and tattooing, the choice being essentially black or white.
Either we embrace all of it or we refuse to embrace any of it. There's nothing possible other than two opposing views. This is a dualistic dilemma and it presents a paradox.
Well, there's a third option available, but it requires a lot more thought, a larger perspective and an intelligent search for positive shades of grey.
One Possible Solution:
I suggest that we stop pretending tattooing will ever return to the way it was before and we begin thinking proactively for our future.
We need to start creating our own media. It might be the only choice we really have.
If we don't care or participate in how tattooing is represented in the media, (or create that media ourselves), then the corporations and the advertisers will!
Their one and only concern is the bottom line; tattooing is nothing but a temporary revenue stream to them and nothing more.
Here's the good news…
Even though the media and pop-culture have irreparably altered tattooing we are capable of adapting to change and consciously participating in further evolution.
We need to unite together as a group in support of those people and organizations who are actively trying to do something positive in/with our community.
Tattoo Times: Ed Hardy's monumental self-publishing accomplishments paved the way for all of us. Under the Hardy Marks imprint he contributed more than most of us could even dream.
Tattoo Artist Magazine: TAM began eight years ago as a direct challenge to the media-dominance of magazine publishers at that time. I had an idea, a backpack, a video camera, a part-time graphic designer and a few tattooers who believed in it.
Tattooers had virtually no choice and no voice in how they were being represented in print. TAM changed that, and professional tattooers now have a choice and a voice, at least within our own community.
What frustrates me about the armchair critics over the years is that they forget TAM's most important contribution. You do not have to agree with everything we print in the magazine, but at least the opportunity exists for those voices to be heard. We proved that tattooers working together could create something authentic and beneficial for the community. I am proud to say that hundreds of respected, creative and proactive tattooers have given their time and energy to participate in this project. And that's what makes TAM special!
My new mantra these days is "Where's our maximum potential?"
How can TAM be used for maximum potential? Not just for us but for our friends, partners and supporters? These questions can lead to some very interesting conversations. I highly recommend the exercise.
TAM Blog: I've been involved in some really good conversations over the last few years with tattooers who are no longer content with apathy.
Here are three repeated themes that came up:
We have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about these reoccurring themes. The primary question has always been, "How do we compete with the media corporations?” We already have a print project but it's limited to only tattooers. We need something with a louder voice, and our voices together are louder than our voices are apart. We created the TAM Blog so proactive tattooers could participate in small ways for a bigger goal.
Truly, the TAM Blog is nothing but a place where tattooers can play with these ideas and share them, with tattooers and the world.
"An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion" -Sir Isaac Newton, Newton's first law of motion. Simple physics.
Here are few more examples of things that are in motion:
The Gypsy Gentleman: Marcus Kuhn's video magazine is the most ambitious attempt I've seen for trying to find a way to use media as a tool for sharing the great things about tattooing. It features great tattooers. It showcases a city and its culture, including art and tattooing- in every episode. Marcus Kuhn has been tattooing more than 23 years and he's tattooed all over the world. In short, Marcus's project reveals his particular love and fascination with this world of tattooing, and he's enthusiastic about sharing it. This is a BIG dream and a BIG project, with lots of potential. Where's the support?
Last Sparrow Tattoo: Legendary San Francisco tattooer Scott Sylvia recently launched the Last Sparrow forum site and it features plenty of pro chitchat as well as extended video interviews between Scott and assorted great artists. (Tim Hendricks, Kore Flatmo, Juan Puente and Brian Burk, just to name a few that I've seen.)
Tattoo Conventions: This is probably one of the most overlooked contributions anymore since we have so many conventions every single month. But there are some really good tattooers either putting on quality conventions or partnering with good people to pull them off. There's too many to list.
Blogs: There are many poignant blogs on the web being produced by tattooers. Unfortunately most are not connected in the most effective ways, but imagine if the were!
Sang Bleu : With contributions from Thomas Hooper
Blood & Guts: Fanzine by Rob Benavides
State of Grace Publishing
Vice Magazine: VBS.TV series on tattooers Tattoo Age looks to be very well done and they are featuring some of the best.
Needles and Sins
In spite of any shortcomings, these are all very real efforts by tattooers and those respectful of tattooing to create something of quality and to make a difference... to contribute to the tattoo dialog that's going on out there.
We have a very short window of time in which to say anything of value and have it be heard. Right now people are interested in the world of tattooing like never before. They will listen to us if we take the time to speak to them and contribute to the ongoing dialog.
Let's sign petitions and boycott TLC for their grievous lack of respect.
But don't allow it to end there. Let's all get off our asses and get into the fray! Many people are already on the frontlines…
If you won't join them in the battle, at least support their efforts with your money and your voice! It's the least you can do, after complaining, of course.
- People actually care about where tattooing is, (not just how it got here)
- They would like to be able to do something about it
- But there's really no way for their efforts to be effective