Ink Girls: Stunning Photos Of Women Who Challenge Convention

Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
Photographer Dina Litovsky doesn’t have any tattoos herself, but that didn't keep her from recognizing the beauty she found at the New York City Tattoo Convention in 2014. Litovsky spent three days photographing the women who attended in a photo series called Ink Girls.

“It’s a lot of people — it looks like hundreds and hundreds in the same space. People are getting tattooed on the spot, so you can have about 50 people in little cubicles getting tattooed,” she described. “It’s a social event, but it’s also very much for artists, [who] come from all over the world. You can just choose an artist on the spot and reserve a place in line.”

Litovsky photographed women with a variety of tattoos that she found visually interesting, taking them aside and asking each one to show her favorite tattoo. “I wanted the women to be relating to the camera, and confronting the viewer,” she said. “[They were] proud to show it to the camera, because some of them were working in jobs, like teachers or assistants, where tattoos had to be covered. It’s still kind of socially looked down upon for women.”

Despite what trendier neighborhoods of Brooklyn might suggest, the cultural taboo against inked-up women is still strong, even today. Litovsky was startled by some of the responses to her series. “A lot of people would stereotype girls by types of tattoos... There was this tendency to place people in a social class, or attribute character traits, depending on what kind of tattoo a person has.” She followed up Ink Girls with another series called Under the Needle, showing people getting tattooed without showing the tattoo itself and putting the focus back on the individual rather than the ink.

“I wanted [the subjects to] come out strong and very aware of the camera and being photographed,” she said. “The best part was how happy these women were to show off their tattoos... There was a lot of pride.”

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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
“I knew there was a tattoo convention, and I’d never been to one. So on the first day, I went there, and I saw a lot of women with tattoos. I usually don’t see so many women with tattoos in one place,” Litovsky said.

Melody, 25
Tattoo artist, Brooklyn
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
Litovsky's favorite part was how the women viewed their body art. "I really loved how [the women] were very proud of the tattoos," she said.

Jessica, 21
Pharmacy technician, New York City
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
While she said that most of the women were on the younger side, she found a variety of ages to photograph.

Eileen, 67
Retired, Long Island
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
Litovsky intentionally photographed many of the women engaging directly with the camera.

Niasia, 20
Tattoo artist, Queens
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
“When you take portraits of people with tattoos, then a lot of people are obviously just looking at the tattoos, and looking at the person and trying to see why this person got this certain ink,” she said.

Tattoo model, Long Island
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
“Instead of trying to understand a person, people just focus on this thing they have,” Litovsky said.

Piercer, New Jersey
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
Some of the women chose to portray loved ones on their body. The tattoo on Rivka's thigh is a portrait of her mother as a young woman.

Rivka, 24
Dental assistant, Brooklyn
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
On her chest, Bella displays portraits of her three young children, Armani, Jamilet, and China.

Bella, 27
Makeup artist, Massachusetts
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
“One of the women… was a big manager for Nickelodeon. And when I tell people that they’re really shocked, because her appearance is so different from who you expect an executive of Nickelodeon would be. And that’s when I started to think that sometimes portraits of tattoos can perpetuate stereotypes,” Litovksy said.

CC, 35
Creative Director for Nickelodeon
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
The women defied expectations of appearance in ways beyond careers. Stephanie was six months pregnant when she was photographed for the series.

Stephanie, 34
Mental health counselor, New York City
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
While the convention attendance skewed slightly toward men, Litovsky said the gender ratio was relatively even. "Maybe 60-40, or 70-30, nothing all that bad," she said. Laura, photographed here, is a manager for her husband's tattoo shop.

Tattoo shop manager
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Photo: Dina Litovsky / Redux.
But despite men and women being fairly equal in their enthusiasm for tattoos, there was one arena where the gender divide was stark — the creative aspect. "Most of the artists are men," Litovsky said.

Anna, 20
Tattoo artist, New York City

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