An Exhibition of Photographic Portraits by Vinnie Amessé
Self-Portrait - Vinnie AmesséThe 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.
Danny worked with the tattoo artist to create his own unique design, which commemorates all the firefighters lost on September 11. He had always wanted an eagle tattoo, which to him represents strength; here it carries a firefighter’s helmet up to heaven.
Clifford’s tattoo, based on a well-known photograph, has the shape of flames encroaching along the lower edge. A new firefighter as of July 2001, he wanted to get this tattoo because ”it’s something that will be with me forever.”
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.”
Alice’s tattoo memorializes her nephew Neil Dollard of Cantor Fitzgerald. She chose a tattoo ”to keep his spirit alive;” she says it works, because people ask her about the tattoo and she tells Neil’s story.
A police officer and a firefighter are the human towers of strength depicted on Matthew's tattoo. Together with an abstracted skyline, they represent a city that is changed but still proud, "in memory of our fallen heroes."
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.”