My interest in tattoos was stimulated, as is sadly the case with many soldiers, by copious quantities of alcoholic beverages. A fellow Huey pilot’s father owned a tattoo shop. We got tanked up one night and went over to his dad’s store front to have a look around. I’d never been inside a tattoo parlour before.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, my friend said he needed some practice and offered me a free tattoo. In my stupor it didn’t occur to me to ask him about his qualifications. At least it was painless. I walked out at about four in the morning with a poorly rendered black widow spider on my shoulder. It looked like something you’d get at Folsom Prison.
What does a tattoo look like up close?
I’m about to show you:
There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? That’s a little corner of a maple leaf from my O Canada tattoo.
My daughter-in-law, Tamara, has designed nearly all of my tattoos, despite the fact that she loathes tattoos. She is a talented artist. Her book illustrations are truly beautiful. She insisted that, if I were to get tattoos, they should be good art.
Here are the four designs that she offered to me for my Dancing Dolphins tattoo that completely encircles my left upper arm:
And here is the original art for my Happy Zen Fish on my left shoulder. It was my second tattoo – designed to cover up the black widow spider. Many first tattoos end up being covered over by something less obnoxious:
My request was simple. I said that I wanted something Yin-Yangy, an oriental sea motif with a fish in it, and it had make me feel happy every time I would see it in the mirror. Well, maybe not so simple. Her first offer was perfect. I couldn’t think of a thing that I wanted to change.
I’ll also show you the original art for my Turtle Totem tattoo. It’s on my bum, which is becoming more elephantinely wrinkled year by year, so I’ll spare you the indignity of viewing the turtle where it lives:
You’ve already seen the Twin Triggerfish on my back, so I won’t repeat them here.
But, the tattoo that I love the most is on my right upper arm. It’s based on this photo:
I took this shot as I was testing a new camera. Eunie had just turned twenty-one. We’d been married a few months. She was sitting on the couch sewing. I pointed the camera at her and said, “Hey, babe.”
From a technical standpoint, this frame is pretty awful. Yet, way down deep inside, it defines me as a photographer. It’s easily the most important photograph that I’ve ever taken, and I have little hope of ever topping it. Ah, serendipity.
I remember clearly the very sad day when I realized that I had lost the negative. I have but one original print left which I protect as the treasure it is to me.
Every photographer strives to create images that provoke an emotional response in the viewer. After all, what good is an image which, when you look at it, you feel nothing?
Here’s a photo by Lina, a friend who was with us up at Blueblood one Sunday. Lina wanted a photo showing Eunie and her doppelganger on my arm:
Yes, my hat does have a story, and I will tell it to you soon, but I need to wrap this up so as not to keep you too long.
But, I have one last story about the tattoo of Eunie.
During CWA Quiz Nights, there are many prizes awarded for silly things – it’s a tradition. One night Brian Lusmore was presiding and he offered a prize to the first man to bring him a picture of his wife. As a few men were reaching for their wallets, I leapt from my seat and ran to the front, rolling up my sleeve as I went. I arrived first as the crowd erupted in giggles and guffaws.
I won the prize.
But, of course, I had won a much finer prize in 1964.