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“They thought it was a subcutaneous worm"

“They thought it was a subcutaneous worm" “They thought it was a subcutaneous worm"

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

UM Ink

Thomas Fuller (41), PhD candidate in the Department of Clinical Psychological Science at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, has on his side a tattoo of a bird’s-eye view of the River Thames and several London parks. It is done entirely in white ink.

“I was a social worker in London from the age of 24 to 26. I’m from Australia so nature is very important to me; we’re outdoorsy people. The Thames and the city parks in London were my connection to nature. I’d take long walks along the river and go to beach parties; when it’s low tide, small beaches form on the river banks. Also I often went to parks like Finsbury Park or St. James’ Park, and on my lunch break I’d go with colleagues to Clapham Common. For me it was a good way to relax and get some fresh air, as far as that’s possible in London.

I wanted a tattoo since I was sixteen, and I finally took the plunge when I was 27. I chose white ink because it gives a scar-like effect. I like that. I like trying new things and sometimes the sensation of pain. I used to have a lot of piercings and I thought about scarification for a while – a technique where an image is formed out of scar tissue from deep cuts in the skin. In the end I decided that was too intense for me.

Because my skin reacted to the white ink, the tattoo sits on top of the skin rather than in it. That made the final result even better than I expected. A while back I was at the dermatologist’s to get checked for skin cancer. When she saw my tattoo she immediately called for her boss. The boss saw straight away that it was a white-ink tattoo, but he understood the confusion. He then called over five or six students to see if they could ‘diagnose’ it correctly. One by one they asked me if I’d been to Africa, Asia or South America recently; they thought it was some kind of subcutaneous worm or parasite. I had to try hard not to laugh. Only one of them realised it was a tattoo.

Personally I barely see it anymore; it’s really become part of me. Before this interview I started consciously looking at it again, and I realised seeing it makes me happy. I have so many good memories of London: I got my first real job, I was financially independent for the first time, and I made friendships for life. It was also there that I realised I want to keep working in psychology. After London I went back to Melbourne to get my clinical degree in psychology, and now I’m doing my PhD in Maastricht.”

In this series, employees and students are interviewed about their tattoo.

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