An Exhibition of Photographic Portraits by Vinnie Amessé
The magnitude of the September 11 attacks moved many people to commemorate the tragic events in a tangible way. The people featured in these photographs have chosen to express themselves through tattoos.
Each person has a unique story to tell, yet there are common threads. Many had never previously considered getting a tattoo, but were so affected by the events of September 11 that they felt the need for a permanent reminder. Some have been comforted by the physical immediacy of a memorial tattoo, as a way of keeping a loved one close at all times. Still others have used their tattoos to express deeply held feelings about patriotism, faith, and a sense of community.
Staten Island photographer Vinnie Amessé has created powerful images of these very personal expressions. Together with each person's own words, they present an emotional tale of life after September 11.
George's two tattoos are an eagle with the Statue of Liberty and an eagle patterned like an American flag that cradles the World Trade Center in its wings. To him all of these elements symbolize the U.S.A. He has always been a patriotic person, and had seen the twin towers every day as he went about his daily activities. He had never had a tattoo before, but he has always had flags on his clothing and his vehicles; after September 11, he wanted to have one on his body. "It's about my own feelings of patriotism," he explains.
George recently added a third tattoo, which has an eagle clutching a missile, on alert and ready to defend.
Francis, a police officer, and his life partner, a firefighter, both reported to the World Trade Center on September 11. It was the last time they saw each other. The towering figures on his tattoo are a firefighter and police officer together. The financial center buildings in the foreground symbolize his civilian friends. Francis says, “I designed my tattoo to honor my life partner and friends that I lost, in the hope that curious onlookers ask questions, and never forget.”
Bruce’s FDNY tattoo has his own badge number on the top and the badge number of his friend, Leon Smith, on the bottom. In his words: ”I wanted to do something to commemorate not just my buddy Leon, but all who were lost that day. There’s a mystique surrounding tattoos (how much pain is involved?) and since I’ve never had one before, I thought this would be my way of memorializing the brothers. To bear a small amount of pain is nothing considering what they may have gone through in their final moments.”
Although Alvin didn’t personally lose family members on September 11, he knew many people who did, and his five tattoos are his way of honoring all of the victims ”so that people will not forget!” Passengers on his train sometimes start conversations about his tattoos; he responds, ”I wish I didn’t have to get them in the first place.”