Tattoos are a rite of passage for many people, helping them mark significant chapters of their lives.
But for the survivors of the Bataclan terror attack, tattoos have helped them channel their trauma into displays of defiance.
Laura Leveque said she was ‘buried’ under the dead and dying at the concert hall, as she ‘carried 130 corpses’ on her shoulders.
‘So I may as well mark it,’ she said.
‘I was soaked in blood and flesh. The dead seeped into me.’
But tattoos have helped the 32-year-old get her ‘body back and transform the horror into something beautiful’.
She says that even though two years have passed since the attack on November 13, 2015, she still feels ‘in limbo’.
Now Leveque carries a raven on her shoulder surrounded by smaller tattoos of an eclipse, and a snake biting its own tail to symbolise the ‘cycle of life’.
Three months after she survived the slaughter, Nahomy Beuchet had the date of the attack and ‘Peace, Love, Death Metal’ tattooed on the inside of her arm.
That’s the title of an album by Eagles of Death Metal, the Californian band who were onstage at the Bataclan when the gunmen burst in and began the massacre of 90 people.
For the 21-year-old, the tattoo is ‘a historical anchor’.
‘This is my scar,’ says Manon Hautecoeur of her lion tattoo and the motto of Paris – ‘Fluctuat nec mergitur’ (Battered but not sunk) – which became a defiant slogan after the attacks.
‘When you are only psychologically hurt you feel you are not a victim because you were not physically injured,’ she said, having been close to the Petit Cambodge restaurant when it was sprayed with bullets.
It was one of the drive-by attacks that night, which claimed an additional 39 lives.
David Fritz Goeppinger, who survived the Bataclan, said he feels the same way.
‘I didn’t have a wound. I needed something,’ the 25-year-old said of his tattoo, which formed the date in Roman numerals.
Alexandra, one of several survivors who preferred to give only her first name, was shot in the elbow at the Carillon bar opposite the Petit Cambodge.
She had ‘Fluctuat nec mergitur’ tattooed as close as she could to the wound.
‘Being tattooed is a way of getting yourself a new skin, metamorphosing,’ said David le Breton, a sociologist who specialises in body art.
It allows people ‘to reclaim what happened, to honour those who died and the emotional impact of having passed so close to death’.
Often the tattoos also mark ‘inner scars’, he added.