Tattoos carry a lot of stigma in Chinese culture. For centuries, they were the markings of exiled criminals and sex workers. Over the past decade, however, younger generations, some influenced by death metal and punk culture, are increasingly getting inked.
Nowhere in China is tattoo culture stronger than in Shanghai. Several tattoo parlors have cropped up in recent years, with locals and tourists flocking to get memorably inked at famous studios. Some are glitzy destinations, like I-Tattoo, which in addition to its studio, houses a school, gallery, and restaurant. Others remain small but have mainstay clout like Shanghai Tattoo, established in 2007 by Zhou Dan Ting, who was dubbed China’s queen of tattoos for her work, which she says is inspired by realism popular in Western tattoo designs and is making a name for Chinese tattooing on an international level.
Slovenian photographer Matjaž Tančič, a recent transplant to Shanghai, captured local artists and their work. These are portraits of people showing off their ink-adorned bodies with pride, hoping to normalize an art form that many Chinese citizens still consider taboo.