Another week and another fantastic book on tattoos sits on my lap. This time I’ve gone East in my ongoing quest for body-meets-inky-needle-knowledge by getting hold of Martha Cooper’s sleek and concise ‘Tokyo Tattoo 1970’. Before Martha paved her way in the world of street art and hip hop photography she (like me) became fascinated with tattoos and spent time in Tokyo 1970 hanging out with a true master of the art Horibun I. As well as some fantastically intimate shots of the tattooing process and its human canvasses, Martha also dispels the myth that having a tattoo in Japan guarantees you’re a member of the Yakuza. Though certainly popular with the mob, back in the days dominated by the Emperor, tattoos were the only way for a normal every day working class person to possess a piece of otherwise forbidden art. It was also an incentive for them to put in loads of graft so they’d be as ripped as possible before getting painfully adorned. In 1970s Japan tattoos were still very much underground and something of a secret art form, which I think is perfectly captured in this fascinating mix of colour and B&W photographs.
Buy it HERE