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Modified Living. Milena Corredor

For my parents, all of the wonderful people who let me take their picture, and, of course, Dr. Trayes.

Preface I

once had a boyfriend who thought that my parents piercing my ears at the age of six months was disgusting, a violation of my privacy. I then asked him how he felt about circumcision. He said he was okay with it, and I asked him why. Whatever little boy going through that didn’t ask for that to happen to him; surely he must feel violated. My ex replied, “It’s different.” I told him he was right. Cutting a piece of dick off without consent is clearly worse. Throughout my life, I heard a lot of arguments mirroring my ex’s about body modification. Most of them came from the people responsible for my upbringing. You see, my parents had no qualms with piercing my ears at a young age, but that was supposed to be it. No more holes for me, and I wasn’t even allowed to think about tattoos. But that was never exactly the plan for my body. While I never plan on total body coverage, I have always wanted to have something else. I feel like this endeavor would have been a lot easier had my only brother felt the need to pierce or tattoo his own body. But, like most other issues, I was the odd one out in my family.

My desire for some kind of body modification confronted my mom dad with a new breed of parenting that had never encountered before. And like most other times I asked for something they didn’t like, they’re solution for this topic of discussion was to outlaw it all. So one could only imagine the ruckus I created when I asked for a nose piercing for my seventeenth birthday. What ensued were a few weeks of fighting, a resounding no, and a very angry almost seventeen year old with a token, infection-prone cartilage piercing to placate her with the understanding that at age eighteen, she could pay for it herself. I eventually got that nose piercing, and not once have I regretted it. Since then I have a total of nothing else modified on my body. The reason for this is my mother. Though I’m not sure if she remembers it, there was a moment when she took me aside and made me promise to wait until I was twenty-one for a tattoo. That’s it, just twentyone. Though I’m sure it was her plan to get me to agree in hopes that when I turned this magical age, I would forget about such things, I have not. I turn twenty one in less than a month, and

I’ll be damned if I wasn’t scheming up my first tattoo since then. Because let’s face it, I love my parents and I respect their wishes, but sometimes, I’m just going to do my own thing. And I decided that I couldn’t just scheme up any old tattoo. I had to really explore this world that I have never known. And this book is my way of doing it. I had to figure out why people cover themselves from head to foot, why some people put so many holes in their faces alone that they set off metal detectors, why my friend Rachel kept dying her hair. Like the journalist that I am, I felt compelled to o my research. And I found this: you can tattoo a hot rod hoagie on your foot and still think It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. The truth is that if it brings you joy, whether through a good few laughs with your friends or through artist expression, then it will always hold a special place in your heart. -Milena

(Insert Desired Tattoo Here.)

Alex, 21 S

ince the age of 18, Alex has accumulated 33 tattoos, all –he claims- done by his own hand. At a very young age, Alex says he was fascinated with expressing himself in different ways than his conservative upbringing. Out of 33 tattoos, only eight of them have real meaning. “I am a tattoo artist and piercer, however I’m a huge nerd and I love Star Wars to death. My brother died at the age of sixteen and he’s the one that brought me into Star Wars. Other than that, the rest are just kind of random.” Alex turned his love for tattoos into a career. “I started tattooing and piercing at an extraordi-

narily young age. I was eleven when I went into piercing and I was about thirteen or fourteen when I started tattooing. Being eleven, you can’t exactly tattoo yourself. My sister’s been a tattoo artist for years ,so I started learning from her. Being in that world, you see a lot of stupid people. And then you see a lot of art orientated, knowing what they want kind of people. You deal with a lot of crap. You deal with them coming in and asking an artist to simply tattoo a butterfly on them or you get people who come in and they just look at the flash rack and they just pick one. Something that someone’s already drawn up that you have to replicate exactly. It bugs any tattoo artist if you do that. Because again, they’re an artist. They’re not somebody that draws for

you. This is going on your body, we want you to put thought into it. We want it to mean something to you. “



ndrew got his first piercing in fourth grade after convincing his mom to let him get one. In sixth grade, he stretched it with a sharpie cap. He then did the same thing to his other ear. They blew out so he let them rest a bit before he tried again. His first tattoo was acquired in the same way his piercing was, with his mom’s permission. But this time he was seventeen. “It was a wave, because I like the ocean.” He continued to tattoo himself. To him, they all have a meaning. Amongst the Made in Lancaster tattoo and a bicycle chain shaped like a heart there is an oragutan that’s “more funny than anything else, but at the same time it’s kind of a

reminder not to lose your youth.” Andrew plans to continue getting pierced until he covers every inch of his skin from his throat to his feet, at least until retirement. After that, his head is fair game. “I forget who said it, but there’s a saying that I read that said you’re body is a temple but you can only live in the same house for so long without redecorating. I just think it looks good. I like the way it looks. I like the fact of getting tattooed. Some people tell me I’m going to regret it. I wouldn’t get it if I was going to regret it.”

Ash, 20


started at fourteen with a tramp stamp; things just kind of… snowballed. She lost count, but she is now twenty years old and almost completely covered. When she first got them, the people around her were unsure about her tattoos. They asked her why she kept getting them and she told them that she wanted to be in the tattoo industry, but got no approval from the people around her. At 18, Ash landed an apprenticeship. Since then, her family has accepted her choice in life and are proud of her. Her response to their support is simply a “fuck you, why weren’t you this supportive when I first started?”

Bekka, 20


ekka had wanted a piercing for a while, and when the opportunity presented itself, she went for it. She often chose her piercings because they looked good, and then, over time, kept them because they meant something to her. “I like them all about the same, but my tongue and nose piercings are special. I got them with a friend, who is no longer among the living. They are subtle but permanent and I will never remove them, in memory of her.� They even serve a function for her as she has a hard time paying attention to anything. She’ll often play with her tongue ring to keep her in check. While she only has one tattoo and a few piercings, Bekka is in love with body modifications

and wants more. However, she won’t put just anything on her body. “You can’t think about something that you’re going to want forever. It has to be something that means a lot to you now and that’s what’s going to make it last. To me personally, I’m not going to try to think of what I would still like as a grandmother because I’ll probably hate it. But if it has a memory attached to it or it’s something that was important to me at the time, that’s going to stay with me.”

As a joke, Bekka found herself getting an “anti-tramp stamp” in the form of a hazard sign and a warning that reads, “wrong way.”

Erin, 20


rin, like the others, started with a piercing. And it was all for the aesthetics of it. They were a new way to change her appearance. “It lets me play with my creativity, and the fact that I can control how I look is empowering to me. It’s somewhat of an addiction.” She has had over thirty piercings in her life, though she hasn’t kept them all. The permanency of tattoos is a different story, but she loves the idea that they’re going to be on her body forever. She loves them so much, in fact, that she is going to expand the space that her favorite tattoo is on into a themed skel-

eton sleeve. On her right arm is a tattoo of a guinea pig skeleton, to honor each of the six guinea pigs she kept as pets and friends. Body modifications have made a part into her life, but not without ridicule. “People have poked fun at them before, calling me a pin cushion and things of that nature, but that never bothered me. Some people assume that body mods are dirty or unprofessional just because they've never had one, and they chose to pass judgment upon them. I think that’s a ridiculous approach to take and people should be more open minded.�

Hannah, 20


don’t know my favorite tattoo or piercing. It’s like making someone choose their favorite kid.” Hannah knows the importance of thinking body modifications through before getting them. Hannah drew out her first tattoo months before she actually got it, changing it constantly. It was a piece based on the children’s book, The Spider and the Fly . “The moral of the story is, If you let everyone flatter you and go along with everybody that’s nice to you, you’re going to get burned. And I’ve experienced a lot of that.” No matter how hard Hannah worked to make it perfect, she still modified the piece once it was on her skin. When she got older, Hannah realized she

didn’t just want to have tattoos; she wanted to do them too. As an aspiring artist, she knows it’s not just about knowing what you want, it’s also about knowing which artist you want. “If you know what you want but you get it from an artist who’s not your style, it’s not going to come out quite right.”

Hannah created her lotus of change based on Nine Inch Nails lyrics. ““The flowers of naiveté, buried in a layer of frost, the smell of sunshine, I remember sometimes. Those words basically tied up in sum a chapter in my life I just got over which was a really bad time for me. I was kind of going down a bad path, so even though the lyrics mean something totally different to the person that wrote them, that was kind of like my take on it. it’s the good things in life that you remember melting off the frost of negativity.”

Lorna, 22


orna works for a tattoo shop. She started working for the industry after her second tattoo and since then has racked up to about forty hours on her body. The one thing she’ll tell you is that the industry has changed a lot over the past fifteen to twenty years. “It’s not like it used to be. It’s more customer service. You can’t really survive with the tattoo world anymore with the sit down, shut up, and get tattooed mentality because the people who want to be tattooed don’t want to be scared.” Lorna’s affinity for body modification all started when she realized her dad would never get the tattoo that he had

always wanted, two crossed Naval canons. “When I was thirteen, I told him that as soon as I was old enough, I was going to get the tattoo that he was too big of a pussy to get. “ She followed through on her word; her father, however, never got it. Being from Florida, She had always grown up around tattoos. “There’s a lot of older retired people there and all of the old guys have really bad ass tattoos and you’re like is that a snake or a naked lady? I can’t tell but it’s cool and I want one.”

Sailors used to get, between the thumbs and their forefingers and anchor and a star,a star for starboard, an anchor for port so they would never mix up their left from their right. Lorna chose to get the reminders on her big toes, instead.



rowing up in Tennessee, Rachel didn’t find many people with crazy body piercings, but it was because they were different that she was intrigued by the world of body modification. She had convinced her parents in 8th grade to give her an industrial piercing under the premise that it would be her one and only piercing ever. She then went on to get nineteen more piercings. She also found herself getting two wrist tattoos with two simple words. “I got create and destroy because I think creation is one of the most essential things you can do in life. And then later I started thinking more about it and I got into balance and harmony and so I added

destroy because I think you’re entitled to destroy anything that you create. “ She practices this mentality every day being in the art world, but the more noticeable way one can tell she’s an avid believer is the amount of times she has modified her hair. The day before her first Warped Tour, her mother helped her dye her long hair pink. It’s been changed over thirty times since. “My hair and piercings are impulsive to me. Two weeks ago I stripped it from black to blonde, took me hours and a whole bucket of bleach. It’s like reinventing yourself. If I’m sad or upset, or if I just need a change , I just change my hair. And I deep condition a lot, or else it would be fried.”

Scotty, 30


ell, I mean. It’s just my whole life. It’s perfect for me, you know? I draw pictures for a living.” Scotty is a tattoo artist. He walked in one day for his first tattoo, and started work there as an apprentice the next day. He’s been tattooing for twelve years, so he’s seen a lot of ink. But his personal favorite is the one on his foot. “It’s a sandwich. I call it my Hot Rod Hoagie. It’s got hot rod wheels, it’s doing a little burn out, it’s got a little banner underneath it and it says slow down.”

Skitz, 26


an act of rebellion against his mother, Skitz got his first piercing at the age of fiteen via stud. “She’s like you’re not going to have a piercing and I’m like yes I am and I just put a dull stud through my ear. Out of spite.” When he was eighteen, he continued his adventure into the world of body modifications. Skitz had his entire face pierced at one point (which was part of over forty total holes) but he lost them due to work, blowouts, or rejection by his body. They included cheek piercings and staples in the middle of his forehead. “I used to work for a shop up north so I was like the guinea pig. We experimented, just pierced everything.”

As a kid, he fell quickly in love with art. Now that he’s older, he uses body modifications as another artistic medium. “Unfortunately, it’s caused roadblocks with work and society but it’s who I choose to be, just like everybody else’s preference. You can’t help who you are.”

Modified Living  

A photobook on the world of body modification

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