‘Ink’ project explores culture of tattoos

Rosa Johnson, Managing Editor

The McMinnville based commercial photographer, Bill Miller has created the “Ink” project as a side project to his commercial work.

Miller has previously created and shown photo-essays covering political, cultural, historical and architectural subjects.

Last fall Miller decided to create the “Ink” project about tattoos, he started shooting in September of 2013 and has done seven photo-shoots to in the past eight months.

“The bias generally held of tattoos often manifests itself in negative socio-economic stereotyping. I hope that people who see the photo-essay will walk away with a better understanding of the humanity involved. The people I photographed are teachers, professionals, salespeople, factory workers, and ex-cons. Regardless of where they come from, who they are, or what they do — they are the same people that you see, and work with, every day in our community,” Miller said in an email.

The goal of exposing viewers to both the art and reasons why people would choose to get inked, to reduce negative bias and stereotyping of those who wear tattoos, according to Miller.

Miller contacted Linfield’s Chair of Psychology Tanya Tompkins partner in this project along with the participation of the mass communication department. Along with Linfield’s contributors, Miller contacted a videography company Meadowlake Studios who decided to make a documentary of the “Ink” project.

“The ‘Ink’ video project for us is a documentary of an artist who is interested in an ancient and very modern body art form, an artist who seeks to make the artistic experience a meaningful change agent regarding bias and stereotyping, and an artist who is reaching out, not only to the general community, but also to the academic community to leverage the art project for intellectual and knowledge building,” Mike Santone from Meadowlake Studios said in an email.

“Unlike some photo essays that tell their story exclusively through images, the “Ink” photo-essay matches each image with the explanation by the person wearing the tattoo,” Miller said. “My goals are to have them share the often deep-felt and significant reasons why they chose to have them and/or to share their experiences since getting them.”

“Another thing I’d like people to realize is that tattoos are really about celebrating. Celebrating overcoming obstacles or illness — the life of an individual — about love and family — and all those other significant and life changing events that make up all of our lives,” Miller said in an email.

Students from the psychology department will be using questionnaires at the opening night to measure bias/stereotyping of those with tattoos, according to Miller. While the psychology department does this, those enrolled in the mass communication Social Research Methods class are doing a content analysis of music videos, we can gauge what content is potentially shaping media consumers’ perception of tattoos. This, in addition to how people feel about them by visiting the gallery, gets us closer to discovering how tattoos are perceived in our society and how they affect human behavior, according to student instructor of the “Ink” project senior Katelyn Henson.

“Tattoos are very popular in our society. When we are not pinning them on Pinterest (by ‘we’ I mean young adult females), we see them on TV and many other media, and it is also popular for younger generations to get them. Because there is such an allure to tattoos, the mass communication department was particularly excited to have the opportunity to work with the psychology department to try and understand tattoos better. I think that this is why researching tattoos is really cool – we are trying to understand what they mean to our society,” Henson said in an email.

Students and staff with tattoos will be able to contribute to this project next photo-shoot will be at 1:30 p.m. on May 2 in the Fred Meyer Lounge.

“One thing that has surprised me is the change in my own life. The artist always strives to affect the viewer through their art. I too hope that is the case with ‘Ink.’ However, the reverse is also true, in that it has had a significant effect on my own. After photographing so many people and their tattoos and listening to their stories I decided that I too wanted – no, needed to get a tattoo; so, at the age of 68 I got my first tattoo,” Miller said in an email.

Research Experience and Pizza will be held at 11:55 a.m. May 2 in Pioneer 102.  Miller will provide background on the Ink Photo Essay Project and members of both the psychology department and mass communications department will be sharing results from recent research relating to the broader project.