Mark Cassidy has had a passion for tattoos for almost as long as he can remember.
The owner of Mark’s Marks Tattoos on Street 350 says he was probably four or five years old when he first became fascinated with tattoos. It was around that time that he met his grandmother’s boyfriend who had a tattoo of a skull and dagger on his arm.
“I’m going to have one of them,” Cassidy recalls saying to himself.
Cassidy got his first tattoo when he was 17. At the age of 43, the native of London, England, is covered in ink. Tattoos decorate his arms, legs, feet, hands, ears, neck, abdomen, chest – and even his head.
Having his head tattooed was somewhat aggravating because of the vibrating and noise from the electrical tattoo machine, he says.
The most painful? The rib cage, he says.
“That’s the worst I’ve probably had.”
Getting a tattoo done on a person’s arm is probably the least painful, Cassidy says.
While Cassidy has had other tattoo artists do his tattoos, he has also done some on himself.
“I tattooed me own shin bone,” he points out.
Cassidy began his career as a tattoo artist 23 years ago in London. He later worked in the US, New Zealand and Thailand.
An attempt at working in Vietnam came to a grinding halt when Vietnamese authorities threatened to confiscate his tattoo equipment when he tried to enter the country.
“I didn’t go in,” Cassidy says.
Cassidy first arrived in Cambodia in 2002 on a two-week vacation. He decided to stay and became the only Western tattoo artist in the country at the time.
Today, he’s still the only foreign tattoo artist in Phnom Penh. But Cassidy is no longer the only foreign tattoo artist in Cambodia. He has a friend from the UK who has a tattoo studio in Sihanoukville.
While Cassidy gets the occasional Khmer customer, the vast majority are ex-pats and tourists. It varies how much business he gets as there is there are high and low seasons.
“I don’t make a lot of money,” he says. “But I didn’t come here for that.”
He answers his phone with a “yeah mate” and makes an appointment with a regular customer.
“That’s one of my regulars from Australia who flies in every six weeks,” Cassidy explains.
Cassidy does a huge range of tattoos common with Westerners. He also does tattoos representative of Cambodia, including Khmer scripts and geckos.
“A lot of the tourists get souvenir tattoos,” he says.
Cassidy doesn’t advertise, aside from having a listing in the Cambodia Yellow Pages. The business he attracts is mostly through word of mouth. He doesn’t have a receptionist. His business is strictly a one-man operation.
“I don’t even have a cleaner — I do everything myself.”
Cassidy’s sterilizer and other equipment come from the UK.
He has some advice for people considering a tattoo.
People should give serious thought to what is permanently going to be on their bodies, Cassidy says. And people should never get a tattoo of their sweetheart’s name.
Cassidy dealt with one woman who came to his studio to get her boyfriend’s name tattooed on her upper arm. A couple weeks later, he says she came back to get it covered and replaced with her new boyfriend’s name.
“Then she came back again and got the original name put on!”