14 Tattooed Bodies & The People Who Own Them

Photographed by Danny Kim.
Heavily tattooed bodies were the norm — not the exception — at United Ink's No Limits Tattoo Expo last month. Held at the Resorts World Casino in Queens, the exposition hosted body-modification artists from around the world. For three days, these celebrated names mingled with and tattooed local ink enthusiasts. Heavy metal and punk-rock music poured from the speakers as attendees compared tattoos and competed in contests from a pinup pageant to a suspension competition (not for the faint of heart). These 14 attendees — some artists themselves — shared with us the stories behind their body art.

Tattoos are an outward display of inward experience, the physical version of wearing one's heart on one's sleeve. From a woman with a portrait of her "future husband" Bruce Campbell inked on her calf, to a mother with a rose tattoo for each one of her children, each attendee was drawn to tattooing as a form of self-expression. They gathered to celebrate the subculture they call their own. Click through to view their portraits and read their stories.
1 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Alison, 26
"I got my first tattoo when I was 18. It was a cat on my arm. One of my nicknames is 'Ally Cat' — my mother’s been calling me 'Ally Cat' for years — [so] I drew it up on a Post-it note, and I was like, 'All right, let me get this tattooed.'

"I still love it, don’t want to get it fixed at all. Everybody’s like 'Let me fill it in!' Nope!"
2 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Ashle, 25
"I got my first tattoo when I was 17 and after that, I ended up getting another one about six months later. I’ve always been kind of quiet, and it was a way for me to rebel a little bit, and it just ended up taking over.

"My first tattoo was a little alley cat on my hip…it actually says 'Sunny' underneath, which was my nickname my best friend gave me. I’m a '90s baby, so I have Pikachu, I have a Hello Kitty, I have a Pokeball, I have Harry Potter.

"The phoenix is rising from the ashes — no matter how many times life gets hard, you can always reinvent yourself and make yourself better and get stronger."
3 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Edson, 28
"My first tattoo was the bulldog that you see here on my left pectoral. I’m a big animal lover, especially bulldogs…I had a bulldog when I was 10. After that, I’ve been obsessed with bulldogs. I have another one here on my right bicep.

"The boxing gloves —boxing is my first love. [At] 14, I put on my first glove…14 years later, it’s still a part of my life. [As a personal trainer], I incorporate it with my clients; boxing helped me become more disciplined. You’ll go through a certain amount of practice and discipline and pain, and at the end of the day it’s all worth it."
4 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Jason, 41
“I got my first piercing when I was 10 or 11. I talked my mom’s hairdresser into piercing my nose without her permission, and she did it. Then I got my first tattoo when I was 17...it was a mistake; it’s covered now. [It was of] ivy vines, but they looks like electrical plugs! I think I was really in love with Drew Barrymore at that time, and she was in that movie, Poison Ivy."
5 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Keri, 28
"Tattoos are just a more intense way to show who you are and show your true self. There’s hair color, and there’s makeup, and there’s so much you can do with your appearance and clothing — but I think tattooing and body mods and piercings just are a really great way to push that envelope and show who you want to be.
6 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Keri, 28, cont'd
"My favorite tattoo is a portrait of my first dog — she’s still alive, but she was my baby. I do love this one of Dita Von Teese. I also have a portrait of Bruce Campbell, and I want to marry him eventually."
7 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Andrew, 29
"[My tattoos] are all pretty much done by [my] friend Becky, of Haiti’s Inquisition, who’s showing here. They're based on literary characters; I have an armful of quotes from different poems. My favorite would have to be this one from Be Here Now, and this one from The Carrot Seed, which is a children’s book. They’re both done by Becky Wilson. We're here to give support to our friends. It’s nice when the freaks and weirdos can come together like this and congregate as one."
8 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Kaitlyn, 21
"I got my first tattoo at 17: It’s the entire side piece. It was like three hours of line work…it’s a huge massive cherry tree. It ended up pink and fluffy, but I wanted it deep and dark because you can burn a tree, you can rip its roots off — you can murder it, basically — and it will still continue to thrive. And, it says 'I’ll never be forgotten' because I don’t plan on it. I’m gonna fucking last until the last drop of me is dead."
9 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Yoshi, 28
"I’ve been a tattoo artist for five years — since I was 23 years old. I live in Korea. I was born in Japan. My mother is Korean and my father is Japanese. I lost my Japanese name when my mother brought me to Korea and I lost my citizenship; I came to Korea when I was two years old. I didn’t know my hometown, my father’s family.

"Am I Japanese? Am I Korean? I’m confused…so [for my first tattoo] I tattooed my Japanese name [on my arms]. I love tattoos because they help you remember something or someone."
10 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Lisa, 27
"I think I was maybe 9 or 10 years old [when I fell in love with tattoos]. I saw this girl in Starbucks and she had a whole sleeve of sliced fruit, and I was like, 'That’s what I wanna look like.' I was 15 [when I got my first tattoo]; I got my Jamaican flag, because I’m half-Jamaican. The back piece [of fish] is symbolizing me and my son swimming upward, and trying to rise against all the bullshit of the world together.

"Every one of us [who gets tattoos] must like the pain a little bit [laughs]. I like the pain, I love the beauty that it adds — it’s like a decoration for your body. Being here at the convention, I love seeing how everyone interprets the art."
11 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Saylor, 34
"I have Gonzo from the Muppets tattooed on my inner arm. It’s the only tattoo I’ve ever gotten that made my mother cry — like, [she was] so happy. I had a Gonzo doll I took with me to preschool every day — and I’ll admit I was hamming it up a little bit.

"[As for the key-shaped implant in my hand], I’ve always been fascinated by 3D implants in general, and I’m really forgetful in my personal life. I’m that kid who leaves his keys anywhere he can put them, and this way I’ll never be without my keys."
12 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Nicole, 24 (left), and Jada, 23
Jada: "I got my first tattoo at 17 with someone else’s ID, which was just awful, but I haven’t stopped since then. I have like 40% of my body to cover, but it will be mainly covered. Tattoos are a way of expressing yourself without having to explain it to anybody. And, I’d rather pay for art that I’m going to see every day than hang it on my wall. I have portraits of my daughter on my arm — those are probably my favorite."
13 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Nicole, 24
"When I turned 18, I went and got my first tattoo; I got 'Overcome' on my ribcage. I fell in love with [tattoos] and I want to cover myself someday. I have butterflies on my chest and on my back…my father loves butterflies, so I got them for him, too."
14 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Rey Contreras, 32
"My first tattoo is when and where I was born — Brooklyn, 1983. It’s the two things I can never change about yourself, you can never change where you’re from or where you were born — but everything else, you can.

"[Another tattoo is] a lighthouse, so I can always find my way home."
15 of 15
Photographed by Danny Kim.
Shawn, 41
"After my second-born in 1995, that’s when I started adding [the names of my] children to my arm. Every time I had a child, [I'd] add another name; I got kind of addicted after a while. I have four children, so I had to add a name and a rose [for each].

"[After my second child was born], I was feeling down. I have four live and bright roses [for my children], but one is kind of limp — that shows that I’m holding on for the four that shine my best, to keep alive. That’s me: I can’t go anywhere, I have to stay strong for the four bright ones."

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