PHOTO REPORTAGE- Love for tattoos and tattoos of love

Tattoos are an age-old art form. For some people, it is part of their culture or tradition. For others, it might be their job or just something fun. I photographed two completely different couples. Each with their own special tattoos. Each with their own story.

Mirlanda and Luca
When I arrive at the given address, I’m greeted by a friendly face. It’s Mirlanda. She is a 23-year-old International journalism student at Thomas More. She was very excited when I asked her if I could photograph her and her boyfriend, Luca. She guides me into her apartment, and onto a lot of stairs. It’s cosy. As I look around, I notice how prominent Mirlanda’s and Luca’s love for tattoos is in their home. On the left of me, I spot a cupboard filled with books on tattoo designs. The walls are filled with framed tattoo drawings. Mirlanda notices that I’m looking at one specific drawing. ‘You like that one?’, she asks me? ‘Luca drew it for me. He gave it to me as a Christmas card, but I liked it so much that he tattooed it on me.’

Luca is a tattoo artist at Glorybound in Antwerp. The cupboard filled with tattoo books makes a lot more sense now. Mirlanda lifts up her long skirt to reveal her tattooed legs. And there it is. Hiding between multiple other tattoos, a little devil with boobs and a ponytail. 

Can you spot the little devil with breasts? 

Mirlanda goes on about how her entire left leg is tattooed by her boyfriend. ‘I love him’, Mirlanda says. ‘And I love tattoos. So it couldn’t be a better match’, she says. It’s funny. It’s kind of a “love for tattoos and tattoos of love” situation.’

We soon are accompanied by Luca. He excuses himself for being late and explains it has been a busy day at the tattoo shop. Just like Mirlanda, Luca has an impressive amount of tattoos. His arms, legs and back are fully tattooed. When I ask him when he got his first one, I get a grin. ‘Well’, he says. ‘I got mine at 17, which is not the legal age. But at that time, I was working as a tattoo apprentice. It was already clear that I would get a tattoo eventually. ’ He goes on about how his parents were very disappointed when they found out about his new job. But now, they know it’s is his true passion and they couldn’t be any prouder. ‘I still have a lot to learn’, Luca says. ‘But, I’m happy I have Mirlanda by my side for all of that.’

Shelves filled with books on different tattoo designs

‘Still got a lot of free space on my right leg, as you can tell’, says Mirlanda

‘I only have very painful spaces left for tattoos. So I’m going to wait on that a little’, says Luca
Mirlanda and Luca in their apartment in Antwerp

Christiaan en Vera
Just like at Mirlanda’s apartment, I am yet again greeted by a lot of stairs. This does not take away my curiosity about meeting Christiaan and Vera. When I’m finally up the stairs, the door is already open. I step inside and see a friendly face pop up from a bedroom. It’s Christiaan. ‘Hi, welcome Fleur’, he says. I’m greeted as if I’m a long time family friend. I don’t mind it. Vera sits smiling at the diner table. She is doing calligraphy. When I take a look around the apartment, I don’t know where to start.

The walls are filled with photos, figurines and letters. The busyness has a comforting feel to it. My attention is caught by a gigantic glass cupboard. It displays different skulls and bones of all different kinds of animals. It is an impressive collection.

When I ask Christiaan en Vera about their tattoos, they are eager to show me. They take off their shirts and reveal their tattoos. Christiaans shoulder is covered with a big dragon. On Vera’s chest, however, appears a smaller tattoo. A koi fish. I ask them if they feel comfortable explaining the meaning behind the tattoos. ‘We’d love to’, says Vera. ‘But wait, I’m going to get something first.’ When she comes back, she is holding a picture frame.

A picture of Christiaan and Vera in the late ’80s 

‘We have always been very creative people’, Christiaan says. ‘As you may have noticed, Vera loves calligraphy. And I am a big fan of painting. We both love art. It is our way of loving and showing love’, Christiaan says. ‘When we got married, we didn’t think wedding rings were something that would suit us’, Vera adds. ‘That’s when we decided we would get tattoos together. Something that would bind us, but is still something that represents who we are as a person’, Vera explains.

When I ask if they are thinking about getting other tattoos, I get a quick response. ‘Definitely’, it sounds. ‘Right now, we are just looking for an artist that we both love’, Christiaan says. ‘But it most definitely will be a matching tattoo.’

Christiaans dragon tattoo 

Vera showing off her recent retouch on her chest tattoo

Vera (69) and Christiaan (72) in their apartment in Antwerp

Text: Fleur Bijtebier
Photos:©Fleur Bijtebier