When we think of Film Noir, we reminisce about the hardboiled detectives and morally ambiguous vixen that helps the protagonist, even as she leads him to doom. In the forties, the genre became an act of rebellion against the censorship codes of the thirties. These films depicted violence and sensual situations so masterfully that they wouldn’t break the code, even if they were highly suggestive to viewers about what was happening off-camera.
The black and white esthetic of film back then also provided a seedy sense of mystery and murky behavior. Characters always seemed to hide a side of themselves only to present it at the right moment. The protagonist, usually a detective or man wronged by the system, would not be a hero in shining armor, but a broken soul trying to repair a slice of humanity to find redemption. The infamous femme fatales were survivors in a setting where their sex prevented them from finding freedom and fulfillment. We could say that this film genre is a commentary on the imposed roles society places on us: we’re either good or bad, when actually our humanity is more complex than that. We’re in a constant struggle to survive in this world that invites us to find love while telling us that we can never have what we desperately want.
Johnny Gloom is a tattoo artist whose style is closely related to the esthetic of film noir, not only for its monochromatic nature, but also due to her provocative scenes. A pair of lips smoking a cigarette, a mysterious set of eyes planning a devious plan, or a woman and a skeleton representing a love going nowhere are just some of the many characters included in her work.
The imagery she creates through her designs is so amazing that it almost seems like you’re watching the entire scene from a movie unfolding before your eyes. An arm movement suddenly becomes a film projector taking us back to a time when women only had their brains and powers of seduction as their defenses. Her images take us back to an era when society presented itself as wholesome and proper despite its deep flaws.
Johnny Gloom’s designs show us how a dark secret can become a beautiful moment of inspiration; how we can carry our mistaken identities beneath our sleeves to then present them at the right time, and how offering a stranger a glass of whiskey can be a chance to start again. Noir inspires us to leave the everyday for a fantasy-filled world of big personalities and unexpected turns.
We all look to the movies to take a trip outside our gloomy world. The black and white films of old, full of double entendres and lies told behind heavy eyelashes, prove to be our best escape from the dreariness of fake politeness and amicability. They’re a peak into a world where people presented themselves as who they wanted to be, more than whom they thought others wanted them to be.
Have you ever wanted to walk on the wild side of life? Discover your inner temptress or anti-hero with these designs that will tell a story as you move around your everyday environment. You can check out more of Johnny Gloom’s work on her Instagram.