New book tells the tales behind tattoos

There are plenty of books that collect photographs of tattoos, but few if any tell the stories behind the ink and skin.

“Permanence,” (Chronicle Books, $19.95) sets out to do just that, according to author and photographer Kip Fulbeck.

“My work has always been about storytelling,” says Fulbeck, an art professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The book uses tattoos as a jumping-off point for talking about identity.”

In 120 photos, Fulbeck covers almost every type of tattoo — and tattoo-getter — imaginable. Rock stars like Slash of Guns N Roses and Paul Stanley of Kiss share the stories behind their tats, likewise porn actress Tera Patrick, comedian Margaret Cho and “Project Runway” winner Jeffrey Sebelia.

But most of the photos are of everyday people — Fulbeck writes that more than 40 million Americans now have tattooed skin — and the reasons why they chose to ink their skin, from memorials to lost loved ones, allegiances to the groups to which they belong, and even a few just-got-drunk-and-did-its.

An Orange County Marine named Jason Lemieux shows up on one page of the book, explaining that his tattoo — the words “Never Forget” below a helmet hung on a rifle barrel — was done both to remember the comrades he lost and remind any who see it of the cost of war. Peter Larsen, Orange County Register