I must admit that before reviewing this book Body Type 2 (ISBN 978-0-8109-8276-5, Abrams Image, 2010, Ina Saltz) I had no tattoos. No crown and anchor or a heart and dagger with “Lek” in flowery script in the middle.
It appears that Ms Saltz is not a professional tattoo artist, but is a professor who lectures on typography and this is her third book. One previous book was Body Type: Intimate Messages Etched in Flesh, though I must say that the stabbed heart on the shoulder with “Lek” indelibly inscribed hardly qualifies as “intimate” in my opinion, but then I haven’t been looking in intimate places, I suppose.
The book purports to give reasons as to why some members of the human race want to have tattoos. Inspiration behind this sensuous art form, says the flyleaf. One such member of modern homo erectus has his father’s initials tattooed on his arm. The reason being that he does not want to forget the part his father played in his life. All very noble, I suppose, but I think most of us can remember our fathers, without having to resort to a tattoo to remember his name.
The photographic plates are numerous, with most taken by Ms Saltz herself, and the font of the words in the tattoos is given. Some are more legible than others. The font used in the chapter headings is also mentioned (Hoefler Text) but I found some of the letters quite confusing, and the choice of such a font by a professor who lectures on typography even more confusing.
One enterprising chap had the emergency medical symbol done on his arm, with the annotation that he is a Type 1 Diabetic. The type face is Helvetica Neue Inserrat Extended Bold. Ms. Saltz must have been beside herself when she photographed that one.
Of course, if you couldn’t come up with something even vaguely original, Chapter Four covers music and lyrics. You like the words of a song, so have them tattooed on your arm. This “frees us from the bonds of convention,” says Ms. Saltz. I suppose it does in some ways, but surely all you have to do is commit the lyrics to memory. After all have you ever seen Mick Jagger singing his arm?
Chapter Six covers strong passions and emotions, the “source and inspiration for many typographical tattoos.” Most seem to be on tortured souls proclaiming them to be ‘drug free’. Many deal with truisms which the majority of us have long come to terms with, without visual reminders such as “Hope”, “Love”, “Truth is Freedom” but done in Latin (such originality), as was “Amor Fati” (Love your fate).
After reviewing Body Type 2 I am pleased to report that I remain an unsullied canvas and am quite happy to stay that way. After all, there’s a limit to the number of Leks one can fall in love with.
At B. 730, this hard cover book may be a wonderful resource for those who are contemplating having skin art. For those naked of such adornment, it is easy to leave it on the shelf.