By: Courtney Stringfellow
From Facebook memes to TV shows, locals have seen their fair share of bad tattoos. The only time one can catch the majority of the population walking into a random tattoo shop without a referral is after a few drinks or on a dare.
When Paul Rogers started tattooing in the ‘20s, tattoos were considered taboo and American society regarded the artform with a hush-hush attitude. Just as gangsters had to locate speakeasies during prohibition, residents across the country had to seek out tattoo studios.
New York City banned residents from practicing this craft for more than three decades (1961-1997). The city’s government justified its decision with a Hepatitis B outbreak, according to Cristian Petru Panaite. The Big Apple wasn’t the only city trying to kill the artform. The government of Norfolk, Virginia, banned tattooing from 1950 to 2006.
But that was 12 years ago.
Tattoo artists no longer hide studios in their homes, and everyday people show off their new skin across social media platforms. It’s difficult to imagine a city banning the craft today.
Jeremy Swed is a tattooer and the manager of Inksmith and Rogers Tattoo Studio on Atlantic Blvd. He’s been interested in tattoos since he was a child.
He saw tattoos everywhere: dots on his father’s head for numerous radiation treatments, identification numbers from a Nazi concentration camp beneath his grandfather’s sleeve, and military tattoos on a veteran’s arm.
“My dad used to work on old VW cars, and one of his buddies was an ex military guy who had some old military tattoos,” Swed said. “But he was like a big, burly guy – had this, like, tough guy thing.”
Swed started collecting tattoo magazines as a teen in the late ‘80s. After high school, he landed an apprenticeship at a shop downtown. He’s only improved his work since.
“I’ve never had anybody stand up and go, ‘Oh, I hate it,’” Swed said. “Sometimes I’ve seen situations where people have come back afterwards and they’re like, ‘I’m just not really pleased with it 100 percent. Like I feel like maybe we could do this, this or this.’”
Swed grew up in Jacksonville. He worked at a few shops before finding his home at Inksmith and Rogers, which now has five locations around the city.
“I’m 42, and I remember driving by here when I was a teenager seeing Eric’s old cars out here, going to the beach with my mom and stuff. And now I work here.” Swed said. “It’s just, like, surreal.”
Paul Rogers shared his knowledge of the industry and tattoo machines with Eric Inksmith. That openness is something the Inksmith and Rogers Tattoo Studio continues to demonstrate. According to Swed, each of the studio’s tattooers has been in the industry for at least 10 years. At the end of the day, they’re here to produce great work and they expect that same level of dedication from younger tattooers.
“I need to see like what kind of passion you have about tattooing compared to me,” Swed said. “Because if I’m going to give you a gift that’s gonna provide you with money for the rest of your life, I want to know it’s something you’re gonna stick with.”