New exhibition: ‘Ink in the Lines’: the art and meaning of military tattoos
Ink in the Lines, which is on show at the Australian War Memorial and accessible as an online exhibition, explores the connection between the personal experiences of Australia’s veterans and the inked designs that help tell those stories.
Throughout 2019, Memorial photographic curator Stephanie Boyle teamed up with photographer Bob McKendry and videographer Stephen Toaldo to interview Australian veterans and bring their military tattoos to life by giving insight into the stories that colour them.
You can see the short video here.
Ink in the Lines features video interviews and portrait photography documenting the experiences of Australian service men and women and the personal meaning that is embedded in each of their tattoos. A common theme that underscores the responses of the subjects is that they use their tattoos as a means to remember, a way to never forget.
Tattoos, which can come in the form of images or words, are often used by veterans as a way to commemorate the people they want to honour as well as the events that have shaped the course of their lives, especially loss and tragedy.
Speaking on the exhibition, photographic curator Stephanie Boyle said, “I hope this exhibition helps visitors engage with Australian military in a way they probably haven’t before, and see that everyone has an important story to tell and that some stories can be written on skin.
“The service people we met making this project told stories that are funny, sad, tragic and above all, human. We continue to be touched and grateful for their honesty and generosity in sharing their stories.”
If you want to see the exhibition in person, Ink in the Lines will be on show in the Special Exhibition Gallery of the Australian War Memorial until 27 January 2021, but for those of us who are limited by border restrictions, the images and stories of these military tattoos can be accessed online here.