I’ve recently had the good fortune to photograph a gentleman by the name of Shaun who is a very colourful character. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease 3 years ago. Since then he has been treated with conventional medicines but decided that the side effects were too much to handle and so is now enjoying life drug-free. He’s well known to the Saddleworth Rangers Rugby team, having played for many a year, but now spends time on the sidelines watching. When I asked him what he did to fill his spare time, now unable to work, his reply surprised me. He dreams up and designs his own tattoos, and then has them carefully applied to his skin. He has tattoos on both arms, neck, chest, back and legs – further to that we didn’t discuss! His art ranges from his children’s footprints, to maori markings, Koi Carp ( the symbol of the Saddleworth Rangers), and inscriptions such as the one on his forearm – ‘I might have Parkinson’s but Parkinson’s doesn’t have me’. Shaun told me he doesn’t drink or smoke and his only vice in life is tattoos.
Apparently the tattoos rarely hurt when being applied, the worst area being on less covered areas such as elbows. When I asked him if he regretted any of the designs, he mentioned a naked lady on his chest that unfortunately resemble a frog as the design had gone askew. This was to be tattooed over in the near future.
I will admit, on first meeting Shaun I was a little daunted. I have no tattoos at all and find the idea of permanently marking my skin not to my liking ( squeamish of needles and i will admit having a little bit of a stereotype idea of who has tattoos – tough guys!) , and wondered what someone was going to be like that had most of his skin area covered. I can honestly say that it was a real pleasure to meet Shaun, a real gentle and kind guy and not at all daunting. He continues to fight with his disease and I wish him all the very best with it.