The Controversy Over “Tattoo Baby”

Why Would She Tattoo A Baby On Her Chest?

by Noel Bass, Los Angeles Photographer

One of my most controversial and shared photos is this photo, simply titled, “Tattoo Baby”. For the past couple of years, Tattoo Baby has been posted on hundreds of blogs and forums, without a story attached, and frankly without my knowledge. “Controversial” for a few reasons, but mostly because of the simple question, “Why would she tattoo a baby on her chest?!”

Sites that range from tattoo-enthusiast-blogs, to your everyday image sharing forums, like Pinterest all have something to say about it. The tattoo-based-sites mostly like to discuss the complexity of the tattoo, which enthusiasts label as a “3D tattoo“, due the detail and shading. There are probably over 100 tattoo blogs that have posted “Tattoo baby” as real. Keep in mind, I never knew this was happening. The reality of this image is really nothing to get upset about or be that impressed by. I created this photo with a (model) friend a few years ago. I put it up on my flickr account, simply titled, “Tattoo Baby”. I got a few comments and wiped my hands clean of it. Basically, I was just practicing my photoshopping.

What happened though was that people began to take the photo and spread it on the internet. For the next three years, “tattoo baby” was out of my mind and out of my control.

Tattoo Baby

Tattoo Baby by Noel Bass, Los Angeles Photographer

“Why did she tattoo a baby on her breasts?! Is she crazy?”


“That’s kind of… beautiful?  Is that real or photoshop?”

Is that real? Therein lies the controversy. Reality versus a concept makes all the difference. It is indeed photoshopped. It’s a concept piece. It’s simple really. Breasts in America are plagued with responsibility. It’s taboo in our society to really do anything with one’s breasts, other than cover them up. They are more related to sex in our national consciousness than for the purpose of feeding a child. So it’s no surprise when you see responses such as these below, in regards to what the subject decided to do with her own body.

baby tattoo controversy

The above was taken from an article entitled “Creepy or Cool?” by This along with the next comments have all jumped into the pool of controversy because they think it’s reality. With no watermark or story, the only side to the story they can see is their own opinion, “She must be crazy.”

baby tattoo controversy 2

It wasn’t til recently, a friend pointed out that “tattoo baby” was also being used to promote other websites and even, other photographers claiming it as their own. Check this Instagram post that has over 17,000 likes and over 800 comments.

Noel Bass Baby Tattoo

The person who posted this linked it to himself and another photographer. Pretty sneaky.

A facebook tattoo page posted the image and it generated a big buzz, over 28,000 likes and over 7000 shares: Click Here

One blog took the photo and pasted their own watermark (something I failed to do) on it for the attention of controversy. Check out how they made sure their website was linked to the photo: Click Here

It’s interesting to see the organic evolution of what is happening to Tattoo Baby online. I get to see the pulse on a concept as if it was reality, versus being a photoshop creation with a name and story attached. To be honest, let’s face it, it wouldn’t get nearly as much attention if people were spreading it as a photoshop piece. So it’s fun to watch the comments. What I don’t like are the people who try to claim the image as their own.

This is pretty interesting: Click this link to see the many postings on various tattoo websites: baby  (scroll down after clicking to see variety)

There are several levels to the story of “tattoo baby”, such as the moral issues of ownership of one’s body or the social acceptance of breasts as separate from sex appeal. From a photographer’s standpoint, the lesson learned here is to watermark your images; something I’ll be doing with my next concept pieces.


  • Gloriana Rodriguez

    who gives a fuck,its not ur tattoo so wat do you care,dnt u have a life ???dnt judge a book by its cover if u dnt knw the whole story behind the meaning,,maybe it means shell always carry her child with her,,or its a memorial of something,,god stupid ass judging people,i personally think its a beautiful tattoo and I would get something like that,maybe not down that far but I would get a picture of my babie on me so I could have them forever with me,cuz as they grow older they’ll always be your babies,but they wil never be a baby again,,seriously,,people,u really have to look on the bright side instead of always being so fucking negative about someone or something,,

    • Gloriana Rodriguez

      and maybe its not even real at all maybe its actually to see how many oohh and ahhh they will get out of it,,,dahhhh

      • Kim Jong-Il

        Reading FAIL.
        If you read the article AT ALL, he explains it’s a fake.

    • disqus_Xaqgj0fFO6

      You’re missing the point of this post- “the lesson learned here is to watermark your images”. Aside from that, it clearly states that the tattoo is indeed NOT real- “It is indeed photoshopped.”

    • Labyrinthia


      • Alysha Isabel Meeks

        Indeed. Never have I head-desk’ed so hard.

  • Alma Lopez Cherry

    Seriously, did anyone read what Noel Bass just wrote? It’s photoshopped. His point is people are claiming it as their own. He is pointing out he should have watermarked it. READ PEOPLE READ!

    • Alysha Isabel Meeks

      From some of these comments it’s very clear that some people just skim through things, see a few choice words they don’t like (however out of context it might be), and “comment” on it. Barf.

  • I think Gloriana is actually voicing her opinion toward those that judged the subject with the tattoo. I’m not sure, but that’s my guess. I don’t think her hate was directed at me as the article clearly states it’s a photoshop piece. Anyway, a little confusing, but funny to see the controversy over this photo reach into this comment area as well.

  • Kim Jong-Il

    Would love to get a chance to hold that baby! It’s so cute!

  • DavidMBrooks

    In addition to watermarking you should register the picture with the US Copyright Office, ideally within 90 days of publication. Even though the picture is being copied in violation of your automatic copyright, registration allows you to collect enhanced penalties so you might make some money from people stealing your work. Latest violation is at failblog’s “Ugliest Tattoos” site.

  • Annette Heathen

    LOL at all the people who assumed it was a
    real tattoo and tutted about how the baby will look when her boobs get
    old. As if 80 year old women give a crap about what their boobs look
    like decades past menopause anyway. The only people who see old lady’s boobs are themselves, their health care workers, and their husbands if they’re still living.

    Great photoshopping, by the way.

    • Penguinlady

      Why do you believe that older women don’t care what they look like? Are you that age? If not, report back when you turn 80.

      • Kellie

        She said that 80 yr old ladies wouldn’t care what their BOOBS look like…not what they look like in general.

        • Penguinlady

          Hair-splitting. How does she know how 80-year-old women feel about their “boobs”/breasts?

          • Kellie M

            My mom is 75 and she doesn’t care what her boobs look like. Like Annette said, the only ones who see them are her, my dad and her Dr. At her age she cares about living a good life, worshiping God, taking care of and loving my dad, her children, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. Boobs just aren’t something of importance in her existence. I’m a few decades off from 80 but I could care less what my boobs look like. I have scars all over my body from being in a head on collision with an 18 wheeler and the appearance of my boobs are the furthest thing from my mind at any given moment. You may care, other women may care but some of us have far more important things to be concerned about. Merry Christmas and God bless.

    • Akiko Fujishima

      Tell that to my 86 year old neighbor who never stops talking about how “bad” her breasts look. I think it’s kind of sad, we all age, it’s how we age (with grace), that matters. I honestly, wish she didn’t feel so terrible about herself. I do try all I can to empower her as a fellow female, but it hasn’t worked yet. 7 years and still trying.

      • Kellie M

        She may have had a relationship where her significant other put her down and gave her a low self esteem…just a guess. I hope that she can come to accept how she looks and to not be so self-deprecating.

        • Akiko Fujishima

          Not the case at all, fortunately. 🙂 I think it’s easy to say how we will think about our bodies when we’re older, because we’re not older yet. It’s very rare in my experience to find anyone who is elderly, male or female, that is thrilled with what time and nature has done to their bodies. That’s just human nature. Like how I used to say I would embrace my grey hairs when I got them.. But, last year I got one and, NOPE, plucked that sucker right out, and had a total “OMG! FFS! TOO SOON!” moment. Even though I’m nearly 40… lol! XD

          I have parts of myself I loathe, like my middle toe being longer than my big toe.. Not because anyone has ever said anything negative to me about it, because no one ever has. In fact, people compliment me on my long toes. Just as my own personal preference, and the fact that it’s my skinniest toe, and when I stub it (which is quite often), it hurts like HELL… lol! Just for me, personally, I don’t like the look of it, and it has nothing at all to do with anything anyone has ever said to me.

  • jme

    weather its photo shopped or not who are we to judge this women ? you don’t know her life story she hasn’t asked you to have it done either so if you have nothing nice to say say nothing at all

  • Jasmine Kim

    Well, you succeeded on your Photoshop skills. People really thought it was a tattoo.

  • Nele Bean

    I always thought it was a beautiful piece of Photoshop work lol and got a kick out of some of the post at first but then I started to get angry and disappointed in all the negativity and sexual innuendos and even worse the ones who were actual negative towards it being a Photoshop piece! as if it were something they could do in like 3 seconds ? I’ve been working with Photoshop for over 10 years so yes I saw it for what it was and appreciated it for what it was and the amount of effort, talent and thought that went into the piece.
    Beautiful work 🙂 and yeah should have water marked rofl 😛

  • Nicola Warner

    That’s not Photoshopped!! Look at it carefully, no way!! It’s up to her what she tattoos on herself, but people will have an opinion and it doesn’t have to be a positive one just coz this has a damn baby involved! She will never have sex again, and be stuck with a sagging baby head one one breast and a body on the other in a few years’ time. But yeah, NICE tatt luv!!

    • Courtney C. Vincent

      It’s his picture….. how can you tell the photographer who was there when the photo was taken… and who photoshopped the picture, that it’s not photoshopped?

      • Haha, Courtney some people believe what they want to believe right? It’s all okay and a little funny. Amazing how much controversy this piece continues to draw.

        • Macie Whiteridge

          Art is meant to invoke emotion…..and this certainly does that! So however it was created, or on whatever canvas was chosen to display it, was at the choice of the artist. You cant help but admire the detail, positioning of drawing, along with the models pose, it is amazing, creative, and just beautiful (which by the way the mona lisa isnt) remarkable however conceived and Noel Bass you know the truth but to make up for your lack of marking it yours Id think about forwarding this site to the various talk shows, Bet you’d get Ellen and Queen Latifia to get your name & face reassociated with your work, know they would see it for what it is….ART!

  • Random Guy

    I found copyright infringement.

  • Mary

    There’s even more controversy.. Reading the comments on an SFG article one Kelly Schmidt says this, “I read an article on why she got that tattoo. Her baby died shortly
    after she gave birth which is why she tattooed the baby to her chest.
    It is actually a really sad story.” Ha,what a fibber!!

  • Joshua Blakely

    How do we know it’s his? What if he’s pretending like everyone else?

  • Fons-Zeca Julio

    And who is the woman in real????

  • jet

    Its pretty cool. But not all tattoos are meant to be. Some may just suck the soul out of you.