How LA Gangs & Prison Experience Shaped Tattoo Artist Robert Pho

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Legendary tattoo artist Robert Pho is one of the greatest examples when we talk about transforming life completely. The man is immensely popular for his tattoo art but his greatness lies in his journey.

The 49-year-old Robert Pho had a troubled childhood and went through one hell of a time growing up. Pho was born in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. He was just 2 when his family moved to France as refugees and then 8 years later they arrived in the San Gabriel Valley. But the biggest challenges of life were still waiting for him.

While living in LA, Robert Pho, a teenager tackled racism heads-on and soon he was also surrounded by gangsters. He was just 16 when he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. It was a tender and very crucial age of life but he had to fight a life sentence and did 7 years of prison. This was also the time when Pho decided to change his life for good. He learned how to tattoo while in prison and learned to survive using the skill.

3 years after coming out of prison, Robert Pho opened his tattoo shop called Skin Design Tattoo in 1998. He never looked back since then and went from strength to strength. Robert Pho is currently one of the most respected names in the industry and has 7 shops in 6 different states and still counting. He has also been honoured with many awards at top reputable expos since the mid-2000s.

Earlier in an interview with Lead The Followers, Robert opened up about what has changed in the industry during 3 decades of his professional career. “It was a lot harder back then I feel like. Tattooing has evolved so much from what it used to be. From equipment to ink, all the way to the artistry. Information now is far more easier to get than before with the internet and so forth. Artists now are a lot more friendlier and easier to talk to than before. Even I have changed in so many ways. And it’s definitely more acceptable to have tattoos now in society than before. But I remember you had to wait your turn in line to be that next guy. You had to wait for everything.” he said.

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