With the increase in mainstream popularity of tattooing, the growth of the field of working tattoo artists has practically exploded. What used to be a backroom practice is now a high-profile career. Scratchers have given way to body artists, and sideshow carnies who could color in outlines have given way to tattoo artist with art degrees from major educational institutions.
Slowly but surely, the laws and rules around tattooing have shifted over the last three decades. States which used to ban the practice outright have made it legal, and city health departments have worked to make sure tattoo artists are educated about blood-borne pathogens and proper sterilization techniques, providing licenses and inspections as they do for other service providers and industries.
Tattoo artists who work from home, or as the news seems to love and capitalize on, go door-to-door trying to provide their artistic services often are shut down, fined or arrested in short order. But there seems to be a loophole in the world of unlicensed tattoo artists: the celebrity. Unskilled, untrained and unlicensed celebrities seem to be able to do a piece of ink or two and despite their "crime" being Tweeted and posted to Facebook within minutes, they suffer no repercussions.
Case in point, singer/songwriter Rihanna. Back in early July of 2009, she was photographed tattooing her own tattoo artist, Bang Bang at his New York City studio East Side Ink. Then she tattooed two other guys who work there and the other co-owner. The catch: to tattoo without a license in the city of New York is a misdemeanor (which means Rihanna committed four of them), with fines that escalate up to $1,000 for a third offense. No word of what it costs for a fourth one.
And now it's nearly September 2009 and there's no word although the NY Health Department has said an investigation is underway. Anyone else would have been charged, or arrested, or had to appear in court by now. Do you think she deserves to be treated differently because she's a celebrity? Or because she was tattooing tattoo artists and not a random someone else?
Tattoo artist Bang Bang sure isn't bothered by the impending case. He just had Rihanna's ex-boyfriend Chris Brown (who's already got legal troubles concerning domestic violence against her) put his own permanent mark on him. But this time, Bang Bang flew to California to have Brown tattoo him. Bang Bang says he'd like to make a habit out of collecting tattoos by celebrities. Does this sound like a good idea to you?
Come on over to the forums and let us know what you think!