Henning Jørgensen, now fifty years old, is famous for doing some of the greatest, most meticulous, traditional Japanese work in the Western world. He is obviously disciplined and hardworking. Back pieces and body suits done by Jørgensen are so vibrant that they practically leap off the skin.
They’re a long way from the tattoos that he grew up with. As a boy, Jørgensen and his family lived in one of Copenhagen’s more notorious red-light districts and Jørgensen learned the art of tattooing in the glare of scarlet illumination. “There would be a lot of people out, having a good time,” he remembers of those days. “There was a lot of alcohol involved; the customers usually had beer in them and so did the tattoo artists. People fought in the streets, junkies laid in the streets, and hookers worked in the streets.”
World-class tattooist Mike Malone inspired Jørgensen to find himself a career outside of the red-light district. U.S.-based Malone made frequent journeys to Copenhagen, set himself up in one of the shops, and spent his off-hours hanging out with the local tattooists. “Mike liked to talk, and we were a crowd with big ears,” remembers Jørgensen. “He turned me on to Japanese and showed me his back, which had been done by Don Ed Hardy. I had never seen tattoos like that before.”
Little could Jørgensen, who now owns Royal Tattoo in Helsingør, Denmark, have known that he’d one day be world-renowned for doing precisely that level of work.