THink project: wade. los angeles.

Hi, Guys.  Happy Monday, and Happy Last Day of March 2014!  (*where is this year going?)

So, who remembers my personal project?  Y’know, that series where I meet + interview + photograph amazing people with incredible tattoos?  The one I call THink.. the one I haven’t blogged about in an embarrassingly-long time?  Ring any bells?

If so, great!  I’m back.  And I won’t let much time go by again before I post another story.  If you’re new here, welcome!  Check out some the ladies of the previous stories here.

Today marks the very first gent in this project of mine, and quite a dapper one at that!  Everyone, meet Wade.

I actually only met Wade officially on the day of this shoot.  Wade lives in LA + is a part of the Shark Pig entourage [he’s crazy-talented], so we had a lot of mutual friends + were even Facebook friends [I know], but it wasn’t until I sent a, “Hey!  Wanna meet + let me photograph you half naked…cuz I guess that’s the only way I can photograph your tattoos?” email that we actually met.  Wade’s story is brilliant + I am so grateful that he allowed me to dream up this shoot, and then ask him so many personal questions!  He’s got gold to share, so check it out.  (And Wade!  Thank you, again!!)

Caroline : So!  The beginning.  When + where did you get your first piece?  Do you still love it?

Wade: My first tattoo was a radiant green four-leaf-clover on my hip which was unspeakably embarrassing. I was seventeen – legally too young – and I wanted something I could hide. I’ve done a number of dumb things in my life. That was one. I had it covered.

Are you picky about who you allow to work on you?  Do you go to the same artist(s) a lot?

I return to an artist so long as they don’t overcharge me or give me a scab or something. I’ve had some good artists work on me and I’ve noticed that there’s generally two types of artists – those in it for the gig and those in it for the life. I’m picky. I shop.

What’s an estimate of how much you’ve spent on your bod?

Around $10k. 

Which one’s your fave?

One tattoo is very meaningful to me. The Mom and Dad pieces are no-brainers, but the lion on my ribs is a spiritual symbol that I think about often. I got it after a fantastically horrible year – a breakup, super broke, moved to the city, didn’t know who I was…I even came close to death a couple of times. So I got it as a reward to myself for making it through something hard. The following year was one of the best years of my life. The lion is ravaged and has a mandala in his mouth. 

Is there a theme or story you try to follow with your ink, or is each piece individual / random?

It’s always random (except the lion). I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about what I want. It’s probably not surprising to hear someone like me say this, but I’m not very forward thinking. I do what I’m inspired to do.

Who designs your tattoos?  Have you designed any of them yourself?

I’ve found that approaching a tattoo artist as a fan and trusting them with your idea gets you a better tattoo. If you explain what you want with explicit detail, their eyes glaze. To them, that’s a job. On the other hand, if you say, “I want a gypsy…so do whatever you think is cool, I trust you,” something different happens. They get excited and make something for their portfolio.

Have you ever gotten matching pieces with anyone?

No. I would though. I’m a sucker for romance. I’d definitely get Shark Pig tattoos with my bros. I think Geoff is the only one that would do it though. The other guys are too responsible.

What’s the most common question people ask you / make comments about?

When I was young and living in the south I was interrogated every day.

I got lucky and scored a job at a well known privately owned restaurant. I made good money for a couple of years. But I didn’t learn to dress well until I came to LA and my day-to-day garments usually consisted of flip flops, baggy jeans and t-shirts. Total strangers would approach me and ask all kinds of facetious things like…Do you feel like your children will understand? The southeast is very different from LA. I had stock replies for people like that, such as, “They’ll be more concerned with the fact that their father kills people for a living.”

These days I get a lot more compliments. People see a well dressed person with a lot of work holding a nice camera and they think they’re an artist. It’s still judgement, but it’s positive. To those people I mention that I’m lucky that I’m able to look however I want, then change the subject. Because to be honest, I don’t like talking about tattoos unless I’m really talking about them, and your next questions allow me to do that.

 Tell me a story about one of your pieces.  (Anything.  You choose.)

I don’t know why I got so many. It started as one thing and became another. I used to just want to look different. I guess that’s a peacock complex. But then it became a weird armor.

I can be way too nice sometimes and I’ve been taken advantage of. I was also bullied a lot in grade school and to this day if I get teased by someone that’s not a close friend I might think about it for days. So tattoos used to be a way for me to create some distance between me and people.

Then it became this way for me to prove something to myself. Tattoos gave me a ton of confidence. To sit still and focus on something so painful and know I did something that a lot of people can’t or won’t…that really grounded me. I got my elbows down my wrists on both arms covered in two days. I wanted to see if I could do it…and I was definitely trying to impress my girlfriend.

So, I didn’t get tattoos because my friends got them, I didn’t get them to rep my hood or even to signify important things in my life. I rushed into every single tattoo. I didn’t care what it was, I just wanted something.

Sometimes I look at my body in the mirror and feel entirely unable to relate to my reflection. Sometimes it’s unsettling, but I admire myself for being the audacious and wayward young man I was. Having a buttoned-down life was never an option.

What’s next?  Is there one you’re in the middle of / one you have planned?

I’m at my first hiatus. My last tattoo was the big snake on my stomach. Prepping for it, I thought, “I’m heavily tattooed…so a huge piece on my stomach won’t be a big deal.”

It was the most painful tattoo ever. I was just laying there on my back trying to think about work…things I wanted to get done…women…and I remember thinking a lot about marriage and what it means to say you’ll spend forever with someone and how incredibly gutsy that is…and then I suddenly kept thinking, “What am I doing? What am I actually doing right now? What purpose does this have? Who or what is it in me that wants to go through this?” And I didn’t have any answers. So I let the guy finish, told him I’d be back soon and never returned.Until I find an answer I won’t get another one. Except maybe Shark Pig tattoos. Maybe my needs are being fulfilled in other ways, or maybe I’ve lost interest.

Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on — either related to ink, or totally random?

Sometimes deliberately placing yourself in a risky situation can be one of the most positive and life affirming experiences you’ll ever have. I didn’t know what I was doing when I was doing it, and things are clearer in retrospect. But I was aware that I was doing something hazardous to my future and it made me feel more present and focused.

Sometimes you have to scare yourself out of apathy. Sometimes loving yourself means not accepting your own bullshit. Do you love yourself enough to question yourself? If you’re in a super comfortable situation, that might be a terrible thing.

Not everyone is this way, but I think people who don’t know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it might benefit from putting pressure on themselves by doing something they want to do and not considering the consequences (with utmost integrity). I’m not saying go K.O. your boss if that’s what you’ve been thinking about for the past ten years, but maybe you should have that cosmetic surgery, or maybe you should spend your life savings on a trip to the Antarctic. It should be something that’s hard to explain to people that care about you, and something that puts financial, societal, emotional or SOME kind of pressure on you. You may start solving life mysteries pretty quick. I’m not saying I have, but I know it’s helped me. Necessity is the mother of invention.

– Or it’s terrible and uninvited advice, and you should dismiss as something said by a guy that’s covered in tattoos.

in a PS side note, fitting a blowup swan in car after it has been blown up is nearly impossible.  also, my brother Robert made this time lapse video of us giving life to the one we named Swan Ronson…

Swan Ronsan from Robert Ingraham on Vimeo.

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