The meaning behind tattoos

In a small tattoo studio and art gallery called Railbender located in Hintonburg, Algonquin police foundations professor Dr. Chris Martin shared excerpts from his new book The Social Semiotics of Tattoos Skin and Self. Railbender holds a lot of sentiment for Martin. One of the people he dedicated his book to was Alex Néron, the […]
Photo: Laura Nelson
Chris Martin with a copy of his book after his book event at Railbender Tattoo Studio & Art Gallery in Hintonburg.

In a small tattoo studio and art gallery called Railbender located in Hintonburg, Algonquin police foundations professor Dr. Chris Martin shared excerpts from his new book The Social Semiotics of Tattoos Skin and Self.

Railbender holds a lot of sentiment for Martin. One of the people he dedicated his book to was Alex Néron, the co-owner of Railbender, who passed away last year. It is also where Martin did his PhD research for the book.

Martin has been studying tattoos since 2010.

He has also had been tattooed six times in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and once in Los Angeles before starting at Railbender.

Martin was able to put a lot of his personality into the book because of Marta Jarzabek owner of Railbender and Néron.

It all started when Martin first walked into Railbender in July 2014 with a copy of his masters’ thesis, a printed journal article for his thesis and a copy of Tattooed: The Sociogenesis of a Body Art by Michael Atkinson. He showed co-owner Néron that he wanted to write a book about tattooing, what it is today and how it has changed from what it was 10 years ago.

Martin worked for a year at Railbender as a receptionist and assistant, Answering phones, filling tattoo ink and taking notes for his PhD thesis. Martin wanted to get a tattoo as soon as he started at Railbender. He had Néron tattoo him, and Jarzabek took a photo.

For Martin, that was a special moment and he included it in his book.

“You start as a social scientist and try to be objective, looking in as an outsider. After a while I realized these people were my friends. My only friends,” said Martin.

Martin’s book is a part of a series from Bloomsbury Publishing U.K. called The Semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.

“Each book tries to understand the meaning behind some sort of art form or communication form. Authors from all around the world who have books in this series,” said Martin.

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