FROM teenage girls to old school rockers, they all dared to bare in the name of body art.

There wasn’t a person with a blank body slate in sight at this year’s Portsmouth Tattoo Convention, which attracted hundreds of people from across the UK to top up their tats.

The event, now in its 15th year, encompasses all aspects of tattoo culture and boasts a huge range of alternative lifestyle attractions and entertainment.

And in the city Guildhall’s main room it was literally buzzing with the sound of tattoos guns firing a riot of colour and designs.

People of all ages and from all across the country gritted their teeth to brave the pain in the name of having some incredible ink.

From skulls and devils to large fish and even an iconic image of Jesus, no two tattoos – or their reasons for having them – were the same.

For Southampton teenager Molly McDermott, tears fill her eyes as she explains tattoos gave her back her self confidence after she spent years battling anorexia.

And the 19-year-old, who was spontaneously getting a tattoo of a gorilla on her knee by Southampton artist Tom Hayball from Ginger Tom’s Tattoo Studio, said she couldn’t imagine life without them.

“They have boosted my confidence and self esteem a lot. A lot of people stop me and ask about the tattoos.

“I get so many comments but all good and it’s given me an identity and individuality. I have no intention of being fully covered but if I like something, I go for it. Life’s too short not to.”

Molly, who works at the RSPCA clinic in Shirley, added: “People can be so ignorant about tattoos but they don’t know how much they can mean for people.”

While for some, choosing a meaningful tattoo can take months of careful planning, their art that lasts a lifetime is a split-second decision.

Will Butcher, from Lymington, who is training to be an apprentice at Ginger Tom’s, has lost count of how many tattoos he has.

Today the 22-year-old has had an iconic image of Jesus inked on his upper thigh.

Daily Echo:

Tattoo by Ginger Tom's Tattoo Studio

“I just thought ‘why not?’ it’s a classic tattoo and Tom gave it a bit of twist.”

Tom, whose studio is in Bedford Place, said gone are the days of people deliberating over designs.

“Today tattoos are much more accepted in society. Often people, especially the younger generation, just like something and have it there and then, but attitudes are changing. Before long you’ll walk down the street and say ‘look at that guy with no tattoo’.”

At first sight Karen Lewis could be that person with no tattoos.

By day she’s a teacher and has to cover them up. But actually the 50-year-old is far more comfortable in her shorts and T-shirt showing off her body art.

“I’ve lost count of how many I’ve got. I can’t stop – they are addictive,” says Karen who came to the convention from Peckham in London.

Today she’s getting the word ‘hell’ tattooed on her left arm by Mr Nu, a traditional Thai tattooist from Bangkok.

“A lot of my tattoos relate to horror movies or vampires. Nobody would know.”

In contrast, everyone knows about builder and rockabilly Shaun Riley’s tattoos.

“Look at that,” he says pointing to a scar running the length of his lower arm.

“I severed the artery going through a window in a fight and that scar is now the backbone of a scorpion!”

Mike Millward, of Ink’d Up in Maybush, Southampton, who tattooed a portrait of rapper 50 Cent at the convention, said when it comes to tattoos, anything is possible.

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Tattoo by Ink'd Up 

“No matter how old you are or where you’re from, there are no limits.”

With that, Fenya, the snake dancer, walks past the stands with her reptile Julius wrapped around her neck and tattooed torso.

Mike adds: “It’s about making yourself different from the crowd. There is no better canvas than the skin.”

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