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New book showcases beautiful vintage tattoo photographs


Tattoos have moved so thoroughly from the underground into the mainstream that it's easy to forget that they were not so long ago seen as the preserve of sailors, convicts and circus acts.

Now a new book has gathered together gorgeous and fascinating images from over the last century to document the development of tattoo culture in the West, providing a wealth of inspiration for anyone planning their next ink.

100 Years Of Tattoos by David McComb is due to be published in September this year, and delves into the history of the practice, accompanied by more than 400 photographs, many published for the first time.


Janet ‘Rusty’ Skuse was Britain’s most tattooed woman

David said: "I used to work for a magazine which would feature modern tattoos and was always keen to reach back in time and chart the evolution of tattoos in the West. To research the book I read every tattoo book I could get my hands on, and began to piece together the history of Western ink."

The shots include the stunning image above of Janet ‘Rusty’ Skuse, who held the Guinness World Record for being Britain’s most tattooed woman for over 20 years. Having had her first tattoo in 1961, by the age of 20 in 1964 she had 62 designs and had started making national news, eventually becoming a tattoo artist herself.


An unnamed woman getting tattooed in the 1920's

There's also a serene image of a woman in the 1920's who, unusually for the time, appeared to be having additions to an almost full-body design.

Further pictures released show Australian 'pin-up girl' Cindy Ray in 1969, one of the first well-known heavily tattooed models. Cindy, real name Bev Nicholas, was known as 'the classy lassie with the tattooed chassis' and toured the country after a photographer convinced her to go under the needle when she answered an ad looking for a model.

The pictures of her transformation gained huge publicity and there were even Cindy Ray-branded tattoo needles available, though Bev later revealed she never saw any of the fortune that was no doubt made from her image.

Cindy Ray

One of the first tattooed models, Cindy Ray, in 1969


A Spider Webb art opening in the 1970's

The vast collection of images spans the fashion, music and art worlds, among others, and charts some of the culturally-important figures in tattoo history, such as Spider Webb, who fought to help tattooing become seen as an art form in its own right and tattooed a model on the steps of City Hall in New York when the city finally legalised tattooing in 1997.

The book goes as far back as the early 1900's, with one image showing the front of a tattoo parlour offering a 'black eyes' service, which intended to disguise facial bruises.


A parlour in the early 1900s offering to disguise black eyes

A spokesperson for publisher Laurence King said: "100 Years of Tattoos forms a unique examination of the tattoo as a form of personal expression and will appeal to anyone with an interest in body art and social history, and to anyone planning a tattoo."


An example of a black panther tattoo popular with military men

E.C Kidd

A 1940's poster for San Francisco tattoo artist E.C. Kidd

100 Years of Tattoos by David McComb will be published by Laurence King in September 2015

Images: Laurence King / Rex Shutterstock



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