When Jane was photographed in Brixton on the morning of David Bowie's death, she expressed the world's sorrow in a single shot. Her photo appeared everywhere, including the cover of The Wall Street Journal. This is her story.
What made you decide to get your David Bowie tattoo?
Well I’ve loved Bowie since I was 12 years old. When the exhibition happened at the V&A, I was there nearly every day because my work was 10 minutes away. When it finished I was so sad and I thought, right, I'm going to get him tattooed on my back. Because things you can lose - materialistic things. I’ve collected and lost things over the years and I thought, well, I won't lose that; my Bowie.
What was the process like? Did the tattoo artist show you lots of different designs?
I said I wanted Aladdin Sane, but I wanted his eyes open, because on the cover his eyes are shut and I wanted his ‘odd’ eyes. A lot of tattooists wouldn't touch it. They said “no, I'm sorry we can't do that”, or “no I don't want to”, but when I went in to see my tattooist, he turned around and he said he always wanted to do that tattoo. It felt right, you know. I'm in my late fifties - it felt right that I had that tattoo now.
Have you got other tattoos or is this your only one?
Funnily enough I have another tattoo. It’s a little red shoe because I also love Judy Garland. My daughter and I were in Camden on her birthday about four or five years ago. She said: “When you die, mum, I’ll get the red shoes [from The Wizard of Oz] tattooed on my ankle”, and I said, “Well why wait till I die? Let’s do it now.” I’ve got it on my right leg and she’s got it on her left.
Did you dress differently when you got your Bowie tattoo - did your wardrobe change?
No, my wardrobe didn’t change, but I suppose I started wearing backless things a lot.
And when you got the tattoo, were you very aware of it?
Oh God, yes! I was very much aware of it. I got stopped in the street. People do come up to you. People take photos with their mobile phones and they come and have a photo with you.
Did you enjoy that attention?
Well, I suppose I like attention, to be truthful. I did have to get used to it. I had to learn to live with it, because people go "Oh my God, you've got Bowie on your back, that's really cool", or "can I take a photo?", or they'll tell you about their personal stories; "oh I saw him in Berlin…”. I was quite amazed by how many people do react to it. I work in retail and I think it entertains my customers a lot. I often hear them go “look, look!” But it’s changed now since he’s passed away.
Can you explain how it’s changed?
People now say: “Did you get that since he died?” and I say “no, I’ve had that before”, then they say “Oh my God, you must have been be devastated.” I say “I was, yeah. I still am.” I had somebody do the sign of the cross behind me. People are generally upset and sad about it, which starts me off again. I don’t know how I’m going to live in the summer.
So you were 12 when you discovered Bowie. Can you encapsulate briefly what it is that you love about him?
Oh, his individuality, his beauty, his songs - they touch you. He didn’t make you afraid if you were a bit different, well I thought I was different, I wasn’t the norm in school; they used to call me kinky or weirdo. I think he made it alright, he reached out. You know, just to say that to be different is OK.
Featured tattoo artist: Maury Decay