Marks on Stranger’s body

 Street junkie’s angel, Jennifer Evon

Street junkie’s angel, Jennifer Evon

It is another cloudy day in Beijing, thick clouds hang low on the sky like fishes in the ocean. I happen to bump into two girls on my way home. One of the girls has a blooming Hawaiian hibiscus sleeve tattoo on her arm, and the other one has a visible burned scar on her left hand. To me, there’s no beauty or ugly here - it is just the mark on one’s body. But, I see the mark is a way of telling me their stories. For the last three weeks, I’ve been writing about “stranger” as the photographic subject, and now I decide to write about the marks on the stranger’s body today (give me a break).

Talking about the “marks”, there are ones that are visible and there are ones are not. A mark could be something that we don't expect to have, like a burn scar. This kind of mark is an evidence left on one’s body and that could relate to the story of a terrible incident happened in the past. The mark is something one cannot easily erase, and it is the same as the invisible scar within them. All the experiences we had in our past, and those experiences may have left the invisible marks inside of us, inside of our heads or our hearts. Perhaps, the mark is the reminisce of some dreadful experiences or some happy and memorable moments. However, no matter we liked it or not, we couldn’t erase these marks inside. They become parts of you, and they make you “YOU.”

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When I see the Hawaiian hibiscus on the girl’s arm, there are tons of stories popped up in my head. Is Hawaii her dreamland? Is the Hawaiian hibiscus used to be her favorite flower from the high school textbooks? Is it because her favorite movie is Blue Hawaii (or Lilo & Stitch)? Is it a souvenir from last relationship, which she fell in love with a man wearing aloha shirt? Or maybe it is just failure of a lily tattoo.

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 Tattooed man at carnival, Diane Arbus

Tattooed man at carnival, Diane Arbus

Please forgive me for all my crazy imaginations, but I do believe tattoo makes something visible not only outside, but also inside of our body. Susan Benson once said in her article - Inscription of the Self, “ The flow of blood and the infliction of pain; the healing and closure of the wound; and the indelible trace of the process, a visible and permanent mark on yet underneath the skin: an inside which comes from outside… the exteriorization of the interior which simultaneously the interiorization of the exterior.” It is true that people change constantly, every idea and experience people have now, will seem to be stupid after a year, but isn’t this the way we grow? A body is the container, it contains these visible and invisible marks we have. It also reflects what we have inside as who we are and outside the environments we surround by.

 Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and the Tattoo by Margot Mifflin

Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and the Tattoo by Margot Mifflin

Every change we make on our body is a reveal of ourselves in that period, meanwhile the social environment at that time. There is an old saying in China; we may know a man’s exterior but not his heart. Seeing the body is not the short cut to see the heart. Comparing to the traditional idea of the body, is it easier for us to figure out what lies behind a body in the modern society? The way we treat our body is a key to figure out our connection to the society. Also, a way for us to explore ourselves.

 Catherine Opie, Self Portrait, 1993

Catherine Opie, Self Portrait, 1993

“It has to be perfect, because it is something I will carry on for my entire life.” If this is the first time you are getting a tattoo, you may say it over and over. But it is just a mark of life. You must know there is no such thing as “perfect life”, and no perfect mark as well.

When you are looking at your childhood photo, you cannot deny that the kid in the photo is you, maybe it’s just because of he or she doesn’t look perfect in the photo. Compare to the visible mark, I’m more afraid of those invisible marks inside of the strangers’ body. Sometimes I think maybe we human beings are too fake to face the unattractive truth of ourselves.