On the history of the European Society of Tattoo and Pigment Research (ESTP) inaugurated 13th November 2013 in Copenhagen

In the recent century many scientific societies and working groups were active in medicine, dermatology, chemical and toxicological sciences, and in social medicine. A knowledge revolution in science has been witnessed. Nevertheless, the field of tattooed skin was a pariah and neglected with no recognized professional platform for improved insight. Counted by number of original research publications, the tattoo field remained far behind other academic fields. This contrasted practical life and the tattoo trend all over the world with hundred of millions of people having tattoos thus ink, particles and chemicals in their bodies being a significant population exposure of the unknown. Tattooing now and then was followed by medical complications that doctors and clinics were not capable to treat, except for the exceptional life-threatening bacterial infections acquired with the tattoo, fortunately with hardly no fatalities in modern time. Authorities’ regulation of the tattoo business was not existing or very loose, a situation that remains today. The tattoo business, originating from tribes an island in the pacific region, over time and across oceans concurred the whole world. It was provocative and driven by lay people of the bottom of society, thus, left on its own and widely surrounded by disgust; a field of low prestige operating in a domain of out-of-law practices. Consequently, academics found it not worth studying tattoos.

Building true and in-depth knowledge about tattoos in the world of today involves not only academic researchers and providers of medical care; the know how of tattooists, cosmetic tattoo artists and the ink manufacturers is needed and the root. There is an essential need to bridge between different cultures and professionals to fertilize each other and raise the level of understanding to a high and recognized level in the community and in academia. Bridging also needs to include regulators in the different countries, the European Union and other super-national organs. This was the analysis behind the founding a new society, apparently the only one of that kind in the world.

I, Professor Jørgen Serup, MD, DMSc of Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark and chief of the first specialized Tattoo Clinic, started in 2008 in Copenhagen, am the founder of ESTP. I organized the 1st European Congress on Tattoo and Pigment Research, in November 2013 at Bispebjerg University Hospital, and I drafted the ESTP statutes. These were approved at the inaugural meeting on 13th November at 5 PM. Statutes were approved by majority vote among 82 participants, and ESTP was born. It was a point of special attention in the discussions that the ESTP must be an organization of ideal aims, independent of economic and political interests. Participants of the inaugural meeting were certified as Founding Members. After the inauguration a provisional leadership was established with Jørgen Serup as Chairman/President, Nicolas Kluger, MD as co-chairman, Professor Wolfgang Bäumler, DScPhysics as treasurer and Christa de Cuyper, MD as board member. The nominations were formally confirmed at the ESTP general assembly in 2015. Since the first congress in 2013 biannual congresses have been organized in different European cities, Brugge 2015, Regensburg 2017, Bern 2019, and Amsterdam to come in 2021. The society has developed different member services, e.g. the www.ESTPresearch.org website with a number of opportunities, and a formal journal affiliation with the peer-reviewed journal Dermatology of Karger AG of Switzerland, the section “Tattoos and Body Art”.

The logo of ESTP was part of inauguration; it illustrates art and the freedom of mind, framed by a hexagon illustrating the rational thinking of natural science. The logo has a historical background explained elsewhere.

The concept of ESTP, to bring knowable people of different backgrounds together to improve the tattoo field has been confirmed. The first years of the society have resulted in an international network of excellence counting international experts in the many aspects of tattoos and tattooing.  ESTP is consolidated as an academic society with a broad scope and open door to the world, prepared for the future and still unique in its aim and scope. Make it grow!

Vivat, floreat, crescat!

Jørgen Serup, chairman of ESTP 15.08.2019

Professor Jørgen Serup, MD, DMSc