Kelly Vest, sophomore majoring in biology

While tattoos are slowly becoming more commonplace in society, pop culture still has a way of stigmatizing them as rebellious or unprofessional. TV might make it seem like your only options are an Ed Hardy sleeve, a quote from Tumblr or a design gone so awry that it’s featured on TLC. However, taking a moment to find out the stories behind someone’s body art can prove that compartmentalizing in this way is both incorrect and impossible. Whether we’re inked or not, we pass people with tattoos every day, not realizing that almost every piece was thought over, designed carefully and holds great meaning to the person who has it. The following six Binghamton University students proved just that as they sat down with Release to discuss their tattoos and the stories behind them.

Camryn Benjamin, sophomore in the Decker School of Nursing

“My only tattoo is wrapped around my left ankle. Completely done in my mom’s handwriting, it says ‘I love you to the moon and back,’ and there is a teal ribbon connecting the first and last word. My mom passed away in 2010 from an eight-year battle with ovarian cancer. She would always say the phrase, ‘I love you to the moon and back’ to me, and the words will always hold a special place in my heart. Because my tattoo is done as a replica of her handwriting, I know that I will always have a piece of her with me.”

Evan Schulz, junior majoring in environmental studies

”It [my tattoo] is an original hamsa tattoo on my forearm by Chris DePinto, a somewhat famous NJ tattoo artist.The hamsa is an ancient Jewish sign of good fortune and prosperity representing the hand of God. It consists of an eye to ward off the superstitious evil eye, and some cabalistic numerical/symbolic significance … I’ve always been interested in this design from a young age. I do not consider myself religiously Jewish, but culturally Jewish. Judaism to me is fond memories of holiday gatherings, the sentimental food dishes we eat together and most importantly, my family. This tattoo is so important to me because half of it is an original design by the artist while the other half is almost an exact copy of a hamsa necklace my mother got for me when I was young. To me, this tattoo represents my cultural roots and is always a reminder of my mother.”

Kelly Vest, sophomore majoring in biological sciences

“I have a pair of wings above both my ankles. These signify both my interest in angels of Judeo/Christian/Islamic religions as well as other mythologies while making me super fast. Not really, but I like to pretend that they do. I got them the day after my 18th birthday, and I had to go to my super Roman Catholic grandparents right after with the pads still taped to my ankles. Despite the angelic connotations to my ink, they didn’t seem to approve very much. On a related note, I also really don’t care. I love the mythos of angels and the principles that they represented as these fearful guardians of an intangible force, but I also love mythology and tricksters which are agents of change within society. To combine these two I have feathered wings above my ankles, the symbol of angels and of Hermes, the ancient Greek trickster god. The pagan reason was hidden because my grandparents are pretty devout Catholics, though.”

Sophia Mosner-Koor, sophomore majoring in cinema

“It’s a black silhouette of a hummingbird with some etched out areas in a swirly design. Then there is Hebrew writing below it that translates to ‘flutter.’ I got this tattoo with my mom and my sister, and we all have the exact same one. I have always wanted to be a bird, higher than anything with no predators and have complete freedom to go wherever I want. The three of us have always had a ‘thing’ for hummingbirds, so it only seemed appropriate and my mom drew out the design for the bird. I am also Jewish and my mom and sister are Israeli, so I thought it would be nice to have another language that was meaningful to me.”

Christina Jones, freshman majoring in integrative neuroscience

“I have a tattoo of a sunflower that represents my mother who passed away when I was 9 from lung cancer. Sunflowers were her favorite flower — and every morning when I was little she would wake me up before school by singing ‘Good Morning Sunshine’ so I decided to get it in honor of her when I turned 18. The design originally started out simple — a black and white flower with 13 petals — because that was my mom’s favorite number. I didn’t want it to be too large because it wasn’t supposed to be flashy. I worked with the tattoo artist, and we decided that adding color would make the tattoo more vibrant and alive, which is how I want to remember my mom. It also has the Latin phrase ‘in omnia paratus’ that surrounds it, which translates to ‘ready for all things.’ This reflects the personal struggle of dealing with her death and growing up with a single dad and two younger brothers. I have also moved around a lot so I feel this phrase reflects this.”

Russell Broere, junior majoring in financial management

“My tattoo is on my ribs … it is the last words my grandmother said to me before she passed away. She wove me over to her bed and whispered into my ear, ‘You are a good kid, never forget that’ … It is important to me because I was not always the nicest kid and my grandmother even right before she passed still believed I was, and despite all the wrongs I have done she told me otherwise. My next tattoo will be my family crest that I am getting with all of my three brothers either on my calf/left shoulder blade. Because mostly every family crest has been altered in some kind of way my brothers and I compiled a bunch of really sick ideas and basically made our own coat of arms with our heritage flag and the basics but added our own touch-ups.”