When tasked with this photo essay of tattooers in the country, I was pretty excited. Being a tattooer and also a photographer, this gives me a chance to portray the craftsmen of my industry from a different view, a more personal one.
Below are some of the few individuals I call colleagues and peers, most of whom I know very personally and have become great friends and family but most importantly, these are the people in my industry who I have such high regard and respect for. Whilst photographing them, we speak casually as mates, I ask them a few questions and pick their brains.
TACO JOE, 26. Black Ink Industry, Kota Kinabalu. Tattooing for seven years.
Q: You travel to Europe to tattoo quite a lot, what is the one thing you never forget to bring?
A: Without a doubt, Maggi seasoning sauce!
JASON HANNA, 32 Pink Tattoos, Bangsar. Tattooing for three years.
Q: Having just made the move to Malaysia, how do you like durians?
A: I haven’t tried durians, but I am kind of turned off to fruit that has texture of cheese and tastes like garlic and onions.
JOSHUA NONIS, 38. Blackcat Tattoo, Sunway. Tattooing for 18 years.
Q: How has fatherhood changed your life?
A: Fatherhood has changed my life in every way – it has made me want to work harder to provide for my family and to be a better person.
ELTON NONIS, 41. Blackcat Tattoo, Sunway. Tattooing for five years.
Q: How important is family to you?
A: My family is my life, and I would die for them.
HAIYUAN SUN, 32. HaiYuan Tattoo Studio, Kuala Lumpur. Tattooing for 10 years.
Q: Why did you pick Malaysia as your home base for tattooing?
A: I was invited to come to Malaysia to teach tattooing at a local tattoo studio just for a short term. But while I was here, I met Hishiko, we fell in love and got married, so it was automatic that I set Malaysia as a place for home and work.
HISHIKO WOO, 29. HaiYuan Tattoo Studio, Kuala Lumpur. Tattooing for four years.
Q: What is it like being married to and working alongside your husband who is such a talented tattooer himself?
A: I thank God! It’s the best gift ever!
LYNDA CHEAN, 29. Pink Tattoos, Bangsar. Tattooing for six years.
Q: You love owls, and if you were able to keep them, how many would you have and what would you name them?
A: I would have two and their names would be Come and Back because I wouldn’t chain or cage them. So I’d always be asking them to come back, “COME! BACK!”
KEVIN MITCHEL, 35. Blackcat Tattoo, Sunway. Tattooing for eight years.
Q: Who in your life has been your biggest supporter and why?
A: Definitely my wife and our families. Through up and downs, they have always been by my side.
JIUN, 31. InkCraft Tattoo Studio, Kuala Lumpur. Tattooing for 10 years.
Q: You have chosen to run a private studio, tell me why this works for you?
A: A private studio works really well for me because it gives more time to constantly produce custom work and rad designs, as opposed to walk-ins, which I might not have time to create something more extraordinary.
FIN T, 26. Pink Tattoos, Bangsar. Tattooing for two and a half years.
Q: Who inspires you the most, and if you had the chance to bake/cook for them, what would it be and why?
A: Most would simply be strangers who are kind to me and the people around them. I would definitely make them peach and banana crumble! It is one of my favourite dishes that my mum makes and everyone loves a crumble and vanilla ice cream.
Photos and interviews by Julian Oh.