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Amazing Photos Reveal Work From The UK's First Professional Tattoo Artist

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Amazing Photos Reveal Work From The UK's First Professional Tattoo Artist

Nowadays it's a lot less surprising when someone has a tattoo. In fact, it's more surprising if you don't have one.

They've become so popular and so easy to get, whether it be during a drunken night out on holiday, to commemorate an occasion, to pay homage to someone, or just as a general body decoration.

It wasn't always this way though. Professional inkings date back to the 19th century, when there was only one man in the UK you could go to if you wanted some body art.

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Credit: Tattoo London/Museum of London

Sutherland Macdonald was reportedly the first ever tattoo artist, or at least the first man to have his name in the Post Office Directory for the trade, according to the Independent.

The POD (basically an early version of the Yellow Pages), created the category of Tattooist for Macdonald in 1894, and he was the only contact listed for four years.

"While tattooing was going on, there is no evidence of another professional studio in Britain at the time, working on paying customers," said Matt Lodder, a lecturer in contemporary art and visual culture at the University of Essex.

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Credit: Tattoo London/Museum of London

Pictures of Macdonald's work were found at the National Archives and the zoological archive at Harvard University, and were later displayed at Tattoo London and the Museum of London.

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He worked in London's Jermyn Street above a Turkish bath house, where customers would pay for his services.

"Tattooing was going on as far back as the 16th century, but it was much more ad hoc, not people turning up and paying for a tattoo as a commodity until the late 19th century," Dr Lodder added. "It's been a really important part of the cultural fabric of this city."

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Credit: Tattoo London/Museum of London

Macdonald reportedly started small with his tats, giving people decorative images, such as the flowers and all that malarkey you see nowadays. He then moved on to more extravagant works, which would cover a big chunk of the body - including recreations of paintings by artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau and wildlife work by Archibald Thorburn.

Featured Image Credit: Tattoo London/Museum of London

Topics: Tattoo

Mark McGowan
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