By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Tat tales

Josh Hibdon 
“The ‘Self Made’ on my fingers stands for where I am in life. Even though I’ve had a lot of help to get to this point in my life, I made and make up who I am as a person — and I’m sure proud of who I am. 
“The skull on my hand is there to remind me of the several times in my life that I’ve cheated death. I use it as a reminder about how to be thankful about my life and for those who are in it, and to stay truly happy.”
Josh Hibdon “The ‘Self Made’ on my fingers stands for where I am in life. Even though I’ve had a lot of help to get to this point in my life, I made and make up who I am as a person — and I’m sure proud of who I am. “The skull on my hand is there to remind me of the several times in my life that I’ve cheated death. I use it as a reminder about how to be thankful about my life and for those who are in it, and to stay truly happy.”
Eric Ryan 
“The way I look at it, no matter what in life I gain or lose, no matter what struggles I go through, somebody can look at me and they can see a story. 
“The things I have chosen to put on my body tell things about me that I rarely share. They are an emotional way to let the world know who I am, and that is something nobody can ever take away from me.”
Eric Ryan “The way I look at it, no matter what in life I gain or lose, no matter what struggles I go through, somebody can look at me and they can see a story. “The things I have chosen to put on my body tell things about me that I rarely share. They are an emotional way to let the world know who I am, and that is something nobody can ever take away from me.”
Charles “Chuck” Dunn 
“Almost two years ago, my husband, Scott, surprised me by getting a tattoo on his right forearm. The tattoo is an anchor with the letter C on it. The meaning here is that I am his anchor (in a good way), providing him stability. 
“This past summer, I decided I wanted to get a tattoo that mirrored that sentiment with what he does for me. He provides me with direction, so I have a compass tattooed on my left forearm, over a whirlpool. The compass appears to point to south, but the S is for Scott.”
Charles “Chuck” Dunn “Almost two years ago, my husband, Scott, surprised me by getting a tattoo on his right forearm. The tattoo is an anchor with the letter C on it. The meaning here is that I am his anchor (in a good way), providing him stability. “This past summer, I decided I wanted to get a tattoo that mirrored that sentiment with what he does for me. He provides me with direction, so I have a compass tattooed on my left forearm, over a whirlpool. The compass appears to point to south, but the S is for Scott.”
Josh Hibdon 
“The ‘Self Made’ on my fingers stands for where I am in life. Even though I’ve had a lot of help to get to this point in my life, I made and make up who I am as a person — and I’m sure proud of who I am. 
“The skull on my hand is there to remind me of the several times in my life that I’ve cheated death. I use it as a reminder about how to be thankful about my life and for those who are in it, and to stay truly happy.”
Josh Hibdon “The ‘Self Made’ on my fingers stands for where I am in life. Even though I’ve had a lot of help to get to this point in my life, I made and make up who I am as a person — and I’m sure proud of who I am. “The skull on my hand is there to remind me of the several times in my life that I’ve cheated death. I use it as a reminder about how to be thankful about my life and for those who are in it, and to stay truly happy.”
Trina Long 
“For 18 years I have struggled in bondage. I have had many struggles throughout my life. I have struggled with addictions and alcoholism. I have been through many types of abuse. 
“There has even been a time or two when I didn’t want to live anymore. My tattoo represents Jesus’ praying hands with 18 broken links connected to the cross. 
“I have given my life to the Lord and he has broken the chains that have kept me bound all these years. Jesus has set me free and I no longer have to suffer. Today, I walk in faith.”
Trina Long “For 18 years I have struggled in bondage. I have had many struggles throughout my life. I have struggled with addictions and alcoholism. I have been through many types of abuse. “There has even been a time or two when I didn’t want to live anymore. My tattoo represents Jesus’ praying hands with 18 broken links connected to the cross. “I have given my life to the Lord and he has broken the chains that have kept me bound all these years. Jesus has set me free and I no longer have to suffer. Today, I walk in faith.”

Bill Miller is a mild mannered, McMinnville photographer with a professorial appearance and an ever-inquisitive eye. Over the course of his 14-year career as the owner of Allegory Photography, he has captured far more images than he can count.

The subjects and themes he has strived to express over those years, initially on film and now in pixels, using the digital medium, have at times been challenging.

In the end, they have always been rewarding, and none more so than the deeply intriguing and emotionally involving one he has currently in progress. “I had no idea when I started down this path that I was about to embark on such an amazing journey,” he said.

Its beginning was quite low key. He set out to seek images of the American flag in unusual places. This led him to people who had graphic likenesses of the Stars and Stripes tattooed somewhere on their bodies.

Once introduced to this realm, the flag idea faded. Miller found the world of tattooing — most significantly, the what and why — far more fascinating.

But to do it justice, he had to broaden his scope.

This would not merely be a matter of finding a subject and taking some creatively inspired shots. He needed to identify and photograph a multitude of subjects.

He saw this as a multi-faceted subject involving strong personal emotions and motivations. He needed to delve deep into the personal lives of his subjects.

Launched last September, Miller dubbed it “The Ink Project.” His guide and invaluable assistant in this endeavor was Rocky Smith, owner of Pendragon INK LLC, a tattoo and piercing parlor operating on Northeast Baker Street in McMinnville.

Smith contacted clients and other individuals he thought Miller might find interesting. He allowed Miller to conduct photo sessions at his business and promoted them on his website.

Miller also did sessions at Spa Bliss, the American Legion and the Hillside Retirement Community.

Mike and Elizabeth Santone of Meadowlake Studios, both professional artists, decided to make a documentary film on The Ink Project. So they have been following it closely in recent months.

On May 2, Miller extended his reach by conducting a photo shoot at Linfield College.

He arranged the session through Professor Tanya Tompkins, chair of Linfield’s Sociology Department, who coordinated with the Mass Communication Department.

Miller has been interviewed about the project by Lynda Phillippi, host of the long-running local talk show, Arts Alive. It airs through McMinnville Community Media, the local public access provider, via Comcast’s Channel 11 and Frontier’s Channel 29.

On the show, he expressed his desire to shed new light on the social impact of tattoos. He said his newfound level of exposure, shared by people intimately involved in the practice, made him realize that many people harbor a strong bias against it.

“I felt compelled to help overcome the negative bias, to send a message to the general public that people who happen to have tattoos are regular folks, just like you,” he said.

All this momentum emboldened Miller to go a step further. A special event showcasing photos from The Ink Project will be presented during downtown McMinnville’s May Art Walk, set for the Friday of May 17.

From 4 to 8 p.m., the Willamette Valley Vineyards Tasting Room on Third Street will feature photos of 20 subjects, selected from the hundreds documented in the project. Miller will be on hand to speak with attendees and answer any questions.

“‘The Ink Project’ has grown into what I hoped it could become,” he said. “It’s something that can have a social impact.

“Everyone in the show is someone you live with, work with and see on the street every day. Read their stories here, admire their very personal tattoo art, and decide for yourself.”

And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — discovering that the rationale behind tattooing is much more than acquiring an epidermal enhancement.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at kklooster@newsregister.com or phone at 503-687-1227.

THE EXHIBIT

  • What: The Ink Project, a photo essay focusing on tattoos as expressions of personal individuality
  • Where: Willamette Valley Vineyards Tasting Room at 300 N.E. Third St., at the interesection of Third and Cowls
  • When: From 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 17, which coincides with downtown McMinnville’s monthly Art Walk and annual UFO Festival
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