How I Feel About My Tattoos, Years Later

Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
There are different levels of tattoo regret. I know this because I only regret the tattoo of a heart behind my ear a little bit. And the sketchy outline of a hot air balloon on my right breast a little bit more. And the satanic symbol on the back of my head quite a lot. But I dislike none of them enough to bother with removal. I'm used to them, and although I might choose not to get them in the first place if I had the chance again, they don't bother me too much.

That's because every tattoo has a story — of irresponsibility, friendship, a trip abroad. A story of letting a friend practice their tattooing skills, or letting a tattoo artist demonstrate their lack thereof. Tattoos tell us something about a person, whether that person intends them to or not.

Here, with beautiful portraits by London-based photographer Matilda Hill-Jenkins, we ask nine people to talk about their feelings towards their own tattoos. What's the story? Do they regret their decisions? What would they do differently?

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Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Billie

"I have wanted a tattoo for basically my whole life. My older sister and I always shared ideas about them and she has a few that I like. For a year or so, my friends and I kept saying we wanted to get one and I eventually thought of a cherry.

"It's on the side of my ankle, same place my sister got her first one. I wanted to get it somewhere relatively hidden so I wouldn't see it all the time if I did regret it and so my parents couldn't see it, to be honest. I was going to be called Cherry-Blossom so that's the concept behind it which is relatively pathetic but I like cherries, dice and that style of tacky tattoo, when they're done well.

"I did it myself with a needle and ink!"
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2 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Billie

"I don't regret it, as such, but it's done quite badly and has faded so I don't show it off. I'm going to neaten it up when I get paid. People say it's done quite well considering I did it myself, but the worst was when someone asked me what it said.

"I wouldn't wish it away and it definitely hasn't put me off tattoos. If anything, it's made me want them more because it's made me realise that they're not as big a deal as they seem. They're obviously permanent but for me it's not something that's constantly on my mind."
3 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Winston

"I was 18 when I got tattooed, so it was six and a half years ago. I had been planning the tattoo in my mind for quite a long time, but if my brother hadn't wanted to get a tattoo and invited me along with him, I probably wouldn't have got it.

"The shop was in Notting Hill and looked very legitimate – we had researched it beforehand and seen good reviews. Now I feel kind of 'meh' about it. The worst thing anyone ever said about it was: 'Is that a club stamp?' The best was: 'It's not that pretentious.'"
4 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Winston

"If could magically wish it away I would, but it hasn't put me off getting more. But I would follow my own advice – think about the fact that it will be there for the rest of your life and make it meaningful. Also think about stretchy skin and how much it will change."
5 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Hannah

"There are a few tattoos that I have that are by far not my favourite, but there's nothing I totally regret. The ones I think I would now change are just simple quotes. I still love the actual quotes, but nowadays I prefer getting pictures on my body rather than writing.

"I was 18 when I got the second quote on my forearm: 'There’s daggers in men's smiles’ – said by Lady Macbeth. I studied Macbeth at school and fell in love with it. I’d usually be the one reading it to the class in lessons. I’ve always loved Shakespeare but I found Macbeth so interesting. It really stuck with me. At first when I started getting tattoos, they all happened at certain major points in my life. That particular one was when I was finishing sixth form and ending my school journey."
6 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Hannah

"There was a time about a year or so ago that I was actually going to get the quote covered up – not because I dislike it, but because I had decided I wanted sleeves and wasn't sure it would fit in. However, my tattoo artist persuaded me to keep it and instead put the coverup below it.

"I would never wish it away. Even though it's not my favourite tattoo, it still represents a time in my life that is long gone now; actually a pretty tough time, but when I look at it, it feels like it was only yesterday. And I remember how much I’ve grown and how much has happened since then."
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7 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Hannah

"I may not be the best person to ask for advice about getting a tattoo, as I’m usually very hasty. If I get an idea for one, I want it and must have it! But that’s just me. Everyone is different. As long as you know for sure you will be happy, no matter what others think or say, then that’s all that matters. Your body is your canvas."
8 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Julia, 23

"I was 19. It was my first real heartbreak; I've always been a romantic and I went for a drink in some pub in Ladbroke Grove with a friend of mine at the time. One drink turned into five and before I knew it I was wallowing in my heartbreak pain, and my friend told me a phrase and in my haze I thought it was totally profound. We translated it to Latin right there and went across the street to a tattoo place that is no longer open – but where I had my first one done at 13. A place on Portobello."
9 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Julia

"I don't hate it but I do feel it's unnecessary. I don't think you should ever regret a tattoo because it represents something that meant a lot at the time. Just be aware that you will evolve and grow, so always try to choose something timeless.

That said, I don't think you should be too careful. People always say things like... 'when you're old they'll look ugly', or frown at people getting a girlfriend's initials. But why? Life is a journey that you go through in your body, so it's your choice how to tell it. And we are lucky enough to live in a society where we are free to do what we choose with our bodies."
10 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Jean

"It was at least three years ago, so I was around 23. The idea to have it done at this specific parlour probably came about a few days before going. The tattoo itself was selected there, from a tattoo flash sheet. It's on my solar plexus. The third chakra is called Manipura, which means 'lustrous gem.' Located around the navel in the area of the solar plexus and up to the breastbone, it is a source of personal power and governs self-esteem, warrior energy, and the power of transformation. Blah blah blah!"
11 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Jean

"I've pretty much forgotten about it. The reason I don't really want it anymore, though, is that I think having a tattoo should be a reminder of something – a place, a person, an idea or an anecdote. But, if you can't see it, it's like it never happened.

"A tattoo is like a scar; your body learns to accept it. But it is also an art work – one that needs contemplation."
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12 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Nubya

"I was 20 years old when I got my first tattoo: hieroglyphics down my spine spelling out Nubya Nyasia Emmelda Garcia. The idea came from my name, Nubya, and where my parents chose the name from, "Nubia" – Ancient Egypt. I started reading around the history of Nubia and became really interested in Ancient Egypt and in particular the writing system – hieroglyphics. I probably thought about this particular idea for about 6 to 12 months or so before I got it."
13 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Nubya

"I still love it. I don't see it every day, which I think is why I haven't got bored of it. And it's connected to me, without being super clichéd. I wouldn't like to walk around and see that I have the same tattoo as other people. It hasn't put me off more at all, probably the opposite in fact, I'd like more!"
14 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Megan

"I got the tattoo about a year ago. I was at my friend's house and she remembered she had some black ink that she'd taken from the school art department. So we all decided to go and do each other's tattoos right there and then. There was no thinking in advance, although I had been dreaming about a stick and poke for a little while – but I didn't ever think I would do it!

"It's at the bottom of my left boob. It's an 'M', for Megan, my name, or 'M' for Marnie my best friend for eight years, who got exactly the same tattoo underneath her right boob. She is my other half."
15 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Megan

"Now when I think about it, it just makes me laugh; it's probably the worst done tattoo to exist, ever. I sometimes forget about it completely for months and then I'll come out the shower and completely startle myself! It doesn't look great, but that wasn't really the point. In my mind it was a way of me having a mini rebellion against my parents – if they ever found out they would kill me!

"Although it's quite ugly and at the time I couldn't have had less of a clue what I was doing, it does make me smile, and I'm sure it will continue to throughout my life. It makes me remember my silly self and of course Marnie, my best mate.

"The worst thing someone has said is straight up, 'Do you regret it?' – basically insinuating that I should! If I could magically wish it away I don't think I actually would. To anyone considering getting a tattoo, go for it! Just maybe start small... Regret is something we all have to experience at some point."
16 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Zak

"I’m not particularly ashamed of my tattoos as the ideas are still true and I’d get them done again, but I'm not particularly pleased with the designs. I’m considering getting them done up. I'd say that, no matter how great your concept is, think twice about the way you’d present it."
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17 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Zak

"This one's of my parents’ birthdays. As human beings we’re bound to connect with other people and the only people who love me unquestionably and are a constant in my life are my family... so it felt right."
18 of 21
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Zak

For the photo aperture, I just thought that I needed something to represent my passion for photography. I thought about it for maybe a month before I got it.
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Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Natalia

"I wanted to get a flying bird tattoo when I was about 18, because I was going travelling and felt freed from the shackles of teenage-hood, parents and all that rubbish. A flying bird seemed apt, so I got one on my ankle.

"Today, it means very little, apart from a funny scribble. Back then it was a serious act of rebellion... The tattoo parlour was in Argentina and in all honesty I don’t remember getting it as it was 10 years ago and I was drunk – something I am not hugely proud of!"
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Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Natalia

"Today it makes me laugh. It's a bit of a conversation starter as it looks so odd. The first girl I showed it to in my hostel in Argentina asked 'Why did you get a shrimp tattooed on your ankle?' Since then I ask everyone I meet what they think it is. Ive had everything from a fireball, a guitar and my favourite – a 'sea crustacean'. Never a bird.

"I am actually planning another tattoo now, though I promised myself when I got it I would never get another as I find them quite addictive and can imagine it could get out of control. We'll see..."
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