How to look at a picture of a recently completed tattoo


         Tattoos mean different things to different people. Some adore it as a beautiful art form while others swear to never let the needle of a tattoo gun touch their skin. Some require a story to accompany their ink, while others enjoy it simply for the aesthetic. The entirety of it can be highly complex and personal. What I find even more intriguing is the moment in which the tattoo is complete; what can be told about the receiver of the tattoo in that moment? In this section there will be an examination of a picture of my very own tattoo located on the upper portion of my back immediately after it was completed. It is seemingly a simple picture besides the dynamic tattoo which may be the first detail to draw you in. However, what is significant is realizing what the image is truly capturing; the different levels of comfort and discomfort that can be seen after the experience of going under the needle.

Notay, Karan. “Mandala on Back.” 2017. Photograph.

          There are many fascinating details to study but let us start by addressing the simple one; the way in which I, the tattoo receiver, am positioned. If you study the picture long enough what you might start to notice is that I am laying downwards on my stomach. There is one hand next to my head which is turned to the left hand side. It quite simply looks to be a comfortable sleeping position. An individual may question if this was the state of a person who became relaxed over the duration of the procedure. One may also wonder what reads as relaxed, such as by taking the time to examine the tension of back muscles or shoulder muscles where it is noticeable there is no flexing and no sudden movement that has made the camera go out of focus. Everything is very still, which alludes to the sense of comfort.

         It is important to highlight how the picture also displays the aforementioned discomfort. The tattoo, as seen in the picture includes black, white accents, and red shading. That is what this specific image will tell one without asking any further questions. Being the person in the picture and the possessor of the tattoo, I can confidently inform an uneducated onlooker that there is no red ink that was used. By looking more closely one can confirm it is not red ink but the red tone that the skin had reacted with, an indication of pain and an indication of sensitivity. Looking at the picture of a tattoo, people adjust to a superficial eye; the design is their focal point because you may not necessarily see what kind of pain was felt.

         Tattoo artists commonly take pictures of the finished product on their human canvases. These pictures are often posted to social media platforms such as Instagram and the main attraction is presumably the tattoo itself. Next time you see one of these, perhaps take a moment to explore all the other stories being told in the picture. In looking at the image of a freshly done tattoo, one gets the opportunity to view the peaceful yet unpleasant route to permanency.


Elkins, James. How To Use Your Eyes. Routledge, 2000.

Notay, Karan. “Mandala on Back.” 2017. Photograph.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.