The Ink of Oxy: A Photo Essay on Student Tattoos

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A sophomore, junior and senior with lip tattoos. Eagle Rock, CA. Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental

A Photo Essay by Sarah Hofmann

There is no shortage of tattoos among Occidental College’s community: members of the student body sport everything from flowers to clowns, to complex scenes done over time. Their reasons for getting them are as different as the designs. Some tattoos serve as reminders of spur-of-the-moment bonding experiences with friends, while others are heartfelt references to parents, cultural heritage or the student’s personal milestones.

“A lot of my tattoos don’t mean anything significant, they’re just art that I like to decorate my body with,” Harrison Brennan-Kallaner (junior) said. “I would say most of my tattoos are done by professional tattoo artists in a studio, but then I also really enjoy stick-and-poke tattooing, and I learned how to stick-and-poke myself. I have some of my own tattoos on my body, but then I also have gotten some from friends.” Eagle Rock, CA. Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
“I will probably continue to get tattoos for a while,” Brennan-Kallaner said. Eagle Rock, CA. Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
Betsy Li (senior) has a tattoo memorializing the day her father died, an event that she said strongly impacted her and allowed her to start stepping out of her comfort zone. Eagle Rock, CA. Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
“Half of it is a Japanese demon called Hannya,” Li said of the tattoo on her side. “It used to be a woman, and her husband ditched her for another girl, and so out of jealousy and anger she became a demon, and for me that’s a representation of the negative emotions you have in life. And they’re always gonna be there, and you’ll have your inner demon inside. Then the other half of the tattoo is flowers and plants, and to me it represents the duality of a person, where you have a lot of positive, lively things, but you also have this negative side, and you shouldn’t ignore the negative side just because you want to seem positive; you have to accept your emotions and who you are as a person. Eagle Rock, CA. Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
“I feel like [having] a work of art that’s living and lives on you forever is kind of cool,” one student said. “I grew up Jewish, and I am still Jewish, and most of my family is very anti-tattoos and that’s why I only keep tattoos on my body that can’t be seen with clothes on. I think a lot of the culture at Oxy is really pro-tattoo – lots of people have tattoos, a lot of my friends have tattoos. I just really enjoy getting them, and enjoy meeting the people that give me them.” Eagle Rock, CA. Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
Makayla Keasler (senior), who periodically gives stick-and-poke tattoos, says that people want them for different reasons. “Of the tattoos I’ve given, half were just, ‘aesthetically, this is a cool tattoo, I want this tattoo,’ and the other half were family stuff,” she said. “You could have a funny tattoo, and the skill level of something is still gonna shine through regardless of what it is.” Eagle Rock, CA. Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
“The tattoo that I’m getting is ‘Karen’ in Hebrew letters, and Karen means ‘ray of light’ — I just like that message because it’s my mom’s name, and I think she definitely is this figure of light in my life, but it’s also my Hebrew name, so it’s kind of a connection to my Jewish heritage and also to my mom’s side of my family,” Kaylie Treskin (senior) said. “I like the idea of having a ray of light on my arm. It’s very uplifting.” Eagle Rock, CA. Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
Sam Pess (junior) poses with her dagger tattoo. Eagle Rock, CA. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
“Once you get your first two, it becomes so much easier to get more,” Emma Connelly (senior) said. “I feel like my getting a tattoo now doesn’t feel as important to me. It feels fun, but it’s not like the agonizing decision now that it was when I got my first one or two tattoos. Now I’m a lot more like, ‘yeah, sure, that sounds good!’” Eagle Rock, CA. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
One of Connelly’s tattoos. Eagle Rock, CA. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
“I think that you can still be very professional and have tattoos, and I think that should be represented more in places of power — I think it would be really cool if the president someday had a tattoo,” Isa Merel (first year) said. “Secondly, I personally believe that the body is a canvas– and that sounds cheesy — but you decorate it how you want.” Merel has multiple tattoos including a douglas fir (pictured) that she got with her parents, representing both her December 24 birthday and her home state of Oregon. Eagle Rock, CA. Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
“The thing that I find most interesting about tattoo culture amongst people that are our age is that some people attach so much meaning to every tattoo that they get, or feel that they have to attach meaning to everything, whereas for me I think that the act of getting a tattoo or getting something on your body for the rest of your life is significant in and of itself because it represents a part of your life,” Teagan Langseth-Depaolis (junior) said. “So, whether you’re 80 years old with a tattoo you got when you were 15, or you’re regretting a tattoo that you got a year ago, I just think of it as representative of the time in your life at which you got it. That kind of eliminates any regret for me, and I’d hope that it would eliminate regret for other people, too.” Eagle Rock, CA. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental
“I love my tattoos, they’ve given me so much, and I feel like at Oxy especially — though it does seem like there’s a lot of tattoos — I think, comparatively to at least my hometown and other schools, it’s pretty underrepresented on campus,” Ellen McDermott (senior) said. Eagle Rock, CA. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental