PhotoHunter: Words

Back around 2004, I saw a documentary about tattoos and tattooing. One of the people they interviewed was an artist, Shelley Jackson, who was writing a book… on people….

Her idea was to write a book and then have the words in the book tattooed on people. The only public representation of the book would be the “words”– the people on which the words were written. The book was to be titled “SKIN“.

I was fascinated by this idea and wrote to Shelley. I received an answer and an invitation to submit an official “resume”, a letter outlining why I wanted to participate and a brief bio. I did and then received a confirmation that I was to be a word in the book.!

Almost two years elapsed from the day I sent in my request to the day I received by word. It was only 3 days later that I “became” “preserve”…




me as the word

me as the word

The word was very carefully chosen by Shelley. In ny “resume” I talked about my work in history research involving Indian Residential Schools; my interest in genaeology; the fact that in many ways, my past had been hidden from me by the actions of my birth father in preventing contact between me and my siblings; and other things which revolved around the idea of “preserving”. I had no idea, nor did Shelley, of what word she was going to give my until Shelley settled on the word “preserve” for me. I was lucky. Many more people would be assigned the words “and”, “to”, and “the”. Interestingly, many of those “words” felt a sense of appropriateness for the word chosen.

Once my word had been received from Shelly, I was to have it tattooed, in black, in a book font (no “fancy” script or lettering… no embellishment, no decoration), and uncapitalized unless the word was the fist word in the sentence. Evidence of the tattoo had to be submitted and the requirements were that there had to be a close-up image which showed that it was a tattoo not simply drawn on, a photo of the “word (the person who is the word, not the word itself, without the word being visible unless it was unavoidable), and the date on which the person became the “word”.

the evidence

the evidence

I would later (more than a year later, receive the only traditionally printed version of the story, a privately printed presentation copy for each participant. This book is only permitted to be read by the participants and the author and the only way anyone not involved in the project would be able to read the book would be if all the participants gathered and were grouped together and read in sequence. With almost 3000 words spread around the globe, no easy task….



  1. nursemyra said,

    October 7, 2009 at 12:37 am

    What a perfect word. And a great idea

  2. jam said,

    October 4, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Very meaningful tattoo you got!

  3. October 3, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    What an amazing story! I’m not fond of tattoos, though. I am the kind of person who a.) has enough skin blemishes/marks, and b.) would probably regret making something permanent on my body. I am the kind of person who is always changing blog themes or moving the furniture!

    My Photo Hunters post is up. I hope you have time to visit!

    have a great weekend.

  4. October 3, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I’m one of the ones that would have wanted to participate had I known about it. What a very cool idea, and a unique entry in the photohunt.

  5. Brita said,

    October 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Wow! Amazing words and book. Courageous to have someone else choose what to be tattooed on you.

  6. magiceye said,

    October 3, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    this is awesome!

  7. Randi said,

    October 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I really admire your courage in tattooing a word chosen by someone else.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. October 3, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Any interesting story. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to participate.

  9. Hootin' Anni said,

    October 3, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Oh my gosh….how interesting!!!!! You wonder what it’d be like to have ALL get together to actually see what the book would be? Awesome.

    My “Words” are now posted. Come join me today if you can find time…

    Here’s the Post For Today

    Happy Haunting…errrrr, um happy Hunting!

  10. October 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I’m impressed Anneke. I would jumped at the chance of that had I known. Have a great weekend

  11. upto6only said,

    October 3, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    hey that’s cook. nice entry.

  12. YTSL said,

    October 3, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    What an interesting story behind the photo and tattoo! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  13. azahar said,

    October 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I remember when you did this! You got a very cool word.

  14. October 3, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Ah, I had another blog buddy participate in this, and for some reason the word “and” rings a bell with him. This took guts! I wouldn’t have had someone else choose what I got tattooed on my body, so that was a huge risk for you!

    • mudhooks said,

      October 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm

      I don’t know if I would have balked even if it had been a different word. The word certainly does get comments when someone sees it and it starts a conversation. Some people are taken aback by the idea but others say they wish they had known about it in time to participate. I don’t regret it for a minute.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: