book review: Bled for Boston

bled for boston

If you are a runner, marathon holds a special meaning for you. You may have run it tens of times already or you’re thinking about doing it for the first time ever but, granted, once you start running and feeling how your body becomes fitter and fitter, you also start thinking about venturing outside your comfort zone and facing the Marathon Beast!

Among countless marathon events held every year all around the globe, the Boston Marathon is very special! It’s the oldest modern marathon race; you can’t just sign up and go for it, you have to earn the right to run it; it’s a legend on its own!

What happened on April 15, 2013 shocked pretty much everyone, not only runners! But you can’t stop or break a runner, so no wonder that soon after the bombings Bostonians and their supporters started helping one another, fund raising and just showing that no matter what, the race is still on!

Bled for Boston pic

Christopher Padgett, an American photographer, stepped out and recorded people’s stories, sacrifices, losses and strength and presented it in a book ‘Bled For Boston.’ It’s a moving collection of photographies of people who were witnesses of a tragedy and whose lives were changed. They wrote down their stories by means of their Boston tattoos and grew even stronger!

The only downside of the book? It’s too short!

Christopher Padgett, Bled for Boston, 2014;

Bled for Boston ii


book review: playing with identity. tattooing in individualizing polish society


Sadly I don’t have enough time and will to write up a decent review of this book, so it’s going to be just a very short review instead, just to say how interesting I found it.

The author is a sociologist and she looks at tattoos from this perspective. She puts them in context and shows how differently they can be interpreted depending on time, place and people involved. I found the first chapter, focused specifically on various sociological concepts of modernity, quite hard to read – it’s dense with theories, approaches and concepts but it’s important not to skip it as it defines modernity and what comes after it which helps understand how people and societies they live(d) in change over time.

The following chapters, 5 to be exact, focus on tattoos as they were seen in traditional societies and how they could be both inclusive and exclusive, tools of self-expression, a way to deal with one’s emotions etc. The author extensively quoted people she talked to while doing research during her work on this book and these conversations/ interviews are actually very interesting to read as they show how different people approach the same thing in many different ways.

I got to read this book in a very weird moment of my life, when suddenly I had to confront my own choices regarding body modifications (tattoos included) and face people’s reactions that changed me from a person they thought they knew into one of the freakish Others. This book is an academic work presenting the subject in an objective (as much as possible, of course) way but for me it was also comforting as it showed me I am not alone.

A photography essay at the end of the book called ‘the colors of identity’ is a very nice touch!


There’s quite extensive bibliography here and I think this book is a very important work on the subject of tattoos in Poland. Maybe the group of people interviewed for it could have been bigger, maybe the book could have been more accessible as far as the language it’s written is in but it doesn’t change the fact that for now it’s one of the very few good books on tattoos in Polish. Hope there will be more of them in the future.

Agata Dziuban, Gry z tożsamością. Tatuowanie ciała w inydiwudalizującym się społeczeństwie polskim, Toruń 2013

book review: A Brief History of the Evolution of Tattoos


To be exact, this book(let) is very brief and concise but presents the history of tattoos in a simple, easy to understand language, gives its reader a comprehensive and relatively broad (even if superficial) overview of the subject and contains a very short bibliography list (which is not that obvious in this kind of publications).


  • very short but pretty detailed (it’s barely 25 pages) <– a possible downside for those who prefer ‘bigger’ books;
  • available in Kindle format, so you can start reading it right away (even if you don’t have your own Kindle, you can still download a Kindle application for PC or a mobile device);
  • cheap ($2.45);
  • might inspire you to read more;
  • the cover (one of the Maori Kings) is a good start to read on the Maori King Movement and thus expand your knowledge on the cultures and peoples around the world.

To sum it up, even if this book is tiny and superficial, it still might be a good beginning for something bigger. There is no such thing as a bad book, there are only weak readers 😉 (credits for a paraphrase should go to one and only Bill Bowerman).

Nicholas E. Efstathiou, A Brief History of the Evolution of Tattoos, Kindle format.

book review: Inked or Tattoos and Their [as in people’s] Stories


Sometimes good things happen totally by accident and that exactly was the case with this book. I came across this one while browsing Amazon, searching for some good or at least decent books in German to buy and read (as a means to keep my German alive). It’s obvious that this book was originally published in English (as ‘Inked’ in 2008) but the German edition isn’t bad.

The main person behind it is Carey Hart. For some he’s a damn good motorcycle racer while for others he’s Pink’s husband. In this book he speaks up for himself and let me say that he has some interesting things to share. Credits for the way this book looks should also go to Chris Palmer, Bill Thomas and – last but not least – to all the people connected one way or another with Hart’s business, ‘Hart and Huntington Tattoo company.

The idea behind this book is not new and we have seen it before in other books but is there anything wrong about letting people share their minds and feelings? Tattoos have had very bad press for a very long time, so the more we hear, see and read about the positive/ bright side of tattoos, the better for all of us.

The book starts with a foreword by Hart himself in which he shares his life story and tells the readers about his life-long passion for tattoos. Many of us can relate to it and that’s why he sounds convincing. The same motif of love for art and self-expression appears in many of 42 portraits/ profiles of tattooed people shown here. These people are as different and interesting as their tattoos – dancers, limo driver, bank employee and tattoo artists gathered around the Hart and Huntington shop(s). They are all different but they also have something in common – they love life, beauty and Las Vegas.


Besides the people’s profiles there are also short texts focused on history of tattoos (it starts with Oetzi and ends with Hart’s achievements which is both Hart-centric and humorous!), inside info on tattoo business and many good pictures of people and their tattoos.

It’s a good read for everyone interested both in tattoos as art and tattoos as a part of pop culture. It also gives a fascinating insight into people’s lives and what drives them to change their bodies and fight (altought not overly vehemently in Sin City) for their right to be who they want to be.

Carey Hart, Tattoos und ihre Geschichten, h.f.ullmann Publishing 2013

book review: Don Ed Hardy, Wear Your Dreams. My Life in Tattoos


When the Great Ones of the industry speak out, I can only rejoice! And an autobiography of Don Ed Hardy is simply great!

The book does not disappoint at all! Hardy turns out to be as very down-to-earth and focused on art as you’d expect him to be (after all, he isn’t, and has never been, one of the ink celebrities plastered all over the Net, his own name aside that is). The language he uses in the book is straightforward, down-to-earth (again) and sounds more like his own voice than him shaped by his co-author, Joel Selvin.

The book is chronologically oriented and Hardy shows us around his life/ world right from the beginning which was Corona Del Mar, CA in the 50’s to his crazy years in San Francisco to his experiences  and encounters in Japan to his (mis)adventure with Don Ed Hardy merchandise to his current life between San Fran and Hawaii.

It all started for him with a few tiny tattoos on his childhood friend’s father and the rest is history. He really did start as early as 10 years old even if his first tattoos were just temporary stuff painted on his friends’ skin. As he proudly admits, though, he and his friend Len always made sure that their ‘clients’ had their parents’ permission to get a ‘tattoo’ from them.

The street credit is never enough, so Hardy went to an art school to develop his skills and hone his talent. He’s honest enough to admit that he ‘didn’t have an original thought in his head about [painting]. I tended to imitate somebody that I admired. I’d done that all the way through. When I got into Goya, I did a self-portrait a la Goya. I wanted to be like these people. I wanted to mind-meld with them by looking at their work and imitating it.’ When he went to Japan (and his Japanese adventures are fascinating to read and again, he’s very honest as he discusses not only the good but also the bad about Japan for him), he discovered how codified and stiff rules of traditional Japanese tattooing actually were despite its wonderful colors and themes. But it took a creative genius of his to combine both so successfully and give us all a new quality to derive from.

Hardy is well aware of his tremendous influence on the tattoo world and mentions it a few times. He never really boasts, though; it’s more of stating the facts and he never forgets to acknowledge the people who came before him or lived along him and also managed to shape the tattoo scene. He’s proud but also humble and that’s a great combination.


It’s his book, of course, so he takes a central place here but he never misses an opportunity to mention and praise Sailor Jerry, Bert Grimm, other important Western tattooers or Japanese tattoo masters. Hardy knows the history, he knows that we wouldn’t be the subculture we are without our past and he appreciates it a lot. His short portraits of people are very to the point and show us the big industry names from a new perspective. It’s certainly a big history lesson when he discusses the old tattooists, the old school tattoos, the sailors and soldiers who were the primary recipients of tattoos back in the day and how they used to ‘sterilize’ the tattoo equipment decades ago. It makes you smile, ponder and cringe as you go on with reading and there’s not even one single boring page in this book!

When a few weeks ago I reviewed Kat Von D’s new book, I pointed out how obvious, repetitive and too personal at times it was for me. Hardy managed to do something entirely opposite even though he also wrote about his life, achievements and dreams. And even though he broaches the subject of his private life now and then, he never crosses the line of TMI and remains discreet – we know he was married twice, he got divorced, his has a son who’s also a tattoo artist but there’s no unnecessary drama and too personal details uncovered for all.

He ends his book on a positive note. He knows tattoos are important to him but he also senses that tattoos are important to all of us, otherwise why we would either love or hate them but never be indifferent toward them? As classic as he is, he also remains an ordinary human who knows that tattoos don’t really have to be very meaningful (he’s not a Miami Ink kind of guy, eh? ;)). And, more importantly, the book of his life is not really finished yet and, deep within, he still is a kid eager to do art and live his life to the fullest.

 Don Ed Hardy, Wear Your Dreams. My Life in Tattoos, Thomas Dunne Books 2013