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In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

A cropped photo from Lynn Allen's "Women In Ink" series.

In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

"I think tattoos can be so beautiful, even more so on the female form," says Allen.

In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Allen plans to have a "Women In Ink" gallery show someday.

"Women in Ink" project seeks tattooed ladies


For eight years, Lynn Allen worked in a corporate environment as a graphic designer where she felt judged for her appearance, which includes bright pink hair and a slew of tattoos.

"As I began to get tattooed, relationships changed and perceptions of me by my colleagues changed," says Allen. "I didn't change at all, my job performance didn't change at all, yet in some instances their approach and opinion of me did."

Last fall, Allen went to Paris to celebrate her 40th birthday, and decided to quit her corporate job and work as a freelancer. Since leaving her eight-year position in December 2007, she found herself with more time to dedicate to creative projects, and started "Women In Ink," a collection of photographs of heavily tattooed women.

"I wanted to do this project to show tattoos don't change the person," says Allen. "I think tattoos can be so beautiful, even more so on the female form so why not do a photo series to help showcase that and maybe, just maybe, help change people's perceptions."

So far, Allen photographed 24 women and is still looking for more models. Eventually, she plans to have a gallery show and publish a book, but for now, she showcases the photos on her Web site.

"The search will be ongoing until I feel I have found enough women to adequately represent the project," says Allen. "When it comes down to it, the project isn't about the women's tattoos really, it's more about them. My photos don't necessarily highlight their ink; I try more to represent them as women first."

During the research and interview stage of this article, Allen asked me to pose for her project, and I did. The experience was fun, not to mention a big boost in the self-esteem department. Like Allen, I worked corporate jobs for many years where I was required to remove my nose ring and cover up my tattoos. At the time, I didn't mind because I valued the experience and skills I learned in "corporate America," but I much prefer being open about who I am when I'm at work.

"Today tattoos are so prevalent. Still, to this day in 'real life' people with tattoos, more so women, are still judged harshly with an outdated attitude," says Allen. "I just don't get that attitude in this day and age."

Allen also feels that women with tattoos are more stigmatized than men with ink.

"Having tattoos does not affect our femininity," says Allen. "While men also face certain stigmas, I think it's harder on women since it is difficult to be seen as being womanly and sexy when they are inked."

Allen grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., but moved to Milwaukee six years ago, after a living in Minneapolis for a few years. She is a self-taught graphic designer and the mother of 20-year-old son. Also, she has 20 tattoos. Does she plan to get more?

"Without hesitation, yes," she says.

Allen says the best part of the "Women In Ink" project is meeting the women.

"Every time a strong, independent woman comes and sits for me it just makes me more and more motivated to do this project," says Allen. "I interview each participant and I can say each one has been amazing in their own way. I feel lucky to have met these gals and know I am not alone in my fight."


Talkbacks

Alan | Oct. 18, 2009 at 5:27 p.m. (report)

Your tattoos are gorgeous Molly, you look great. I think its really great to see tattooed women that are comfortable with their own beauty and that society is becoming more accepting of this wonderul form of art.

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haup9 | March 11, 2008 at 7:54 p.m. (report)

Bruno I have one tat and got it done at Absolute Tattoo in Menomonee Falls by Scott (the owner). If you want to see it you can go here http://www.strikethebox.com/tattoo/memorial/2007_memorial/03/Haupenthal.htm Hopefully I can include a link.

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rob | March 11, 2008 at 9:13 a.m. (report)

"Today tattoos are so prevalent. Still, to this day in 'real life' people with tattoos, more so women, are still judged harshly with an outdated attitude," says Allen. "I just don't get that attitude in this day and age." Women are judged harshly not only for tats but having a mind of their own and using it any way they choose. I think that is called "freedom", but freedom scares many people - men and women even in this day and age.

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brunocarlson | March 10, 2008 at 8:41 a.m. (report)

Molly, very nice. Anyone recommend a ecxcellent artist in this field? As a male in a corporate world and proud of my own tats, I am looked at as more of a hooligan than someone who can be taken seriously. The dress code is more relaxed so if I wear short sleeves, my tats can be seen. At first everyone loved them, saying, "I wish I could get one," and so on. But as time progressed and everyone got older (prudish) my tattoos got more taboo. I realized what it was like to be a biker at a black tie event. I finally quite my job so that I didn't need to worry if my right to express myself was hampering others working environment. I now have a job where I can do the same work but can also be expressive. Also, my boss and I compared tattoos during my second interview. I would have to say that tattoos are just like this blog, the newspaper, or anything else that we read, watch, or do. It is a form of self expression. It shows who we are, what means the most to us and what we like. So what if I have a crucifix on my arm or my grandmother's name and favorite flower on my sleeve. It is what means the most. If you want a Star of David, a Hilal (cresent moon) or a rose on your foot, go for it. The more tattoos the sassier (on a woman at least) but that is my thought.

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Z_boy | March 10, 2008 at 7:02 a.m. (report)

Molly, your tattoos are beautiful! Lynn has done an amazing job of capturing all these tattooed women on film. She has a knack for getting just the right poses. Great stuff!

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