The Gatekeepers is a neutral motorcycle club of professional and retired fire fighters who frequently host fundraising events. Five of their members were kind enough to come down to my studio to talk about their non-profit organization and how tattoos have evolved in the fire department. Today it’s so common to see fire fighters with tattoos, but there was a time when tattoos in the fire department were not as accepted as they are today.
“There was one point in the fire department you couldn’t have any. If they showed, you had to cover them,” says Rob. “Now it’s a matter of what it is. If it’s offensive to anybody, you have to cover it.”
When I interviewed each member, I was amazed at the different styles of tattoos and how varied the stories were. While all of them had a Gatekeeper emblem tattoo, each of them had ink honoring what was important to them. For example, Bill (red shirt) got tattoos celebrating his family’s Scottish heritage. Pappy (far left) explained that the Celtic Crosses on the inside of his forearms were to remind him of his own inner strength when times got tough.
My interview with the Gatekeepers demonstrated the complexity of tattoos and the culture of body art. The perception and artistry of tattoos have changed dramatically. Even today, body art is continuing to evolve. It’s hard to say how tattoos will continue to change because it is an art form. However, it seems that tattoos will always have a place in society, whether it’s mainstream or on the fringe.