Some of the many tattoos on Josh Autrey's own body represent a younger, misguided version of himself, he says — the guy who didn't have a wife, a son and a 9-to-5 job. "They're all souvenirs," he says, waving his hand up and down his body.
Autrey is one of a small team of tattoo artists at Salvation Tattoo Gallery, which has been in business about 13 years.
Today, Richmond has the reputation of being the third-most-inked city in the United States, but that growing cachet was not exactly what drew Autrey here from his hometown of Newport News about eight years ago. He was "looking for a fresh start."
Autrey became a tattoo artist in 2003. How, exactly? "Running with the wrong crowd," he answers with a long chuckle. He admits his idea, at first, was selfish — something he could do at his leisure with no supervision. He adds, "It definitely changed to the point where I could do something cool for people and not just make money at work but be fulfilled. So, it's that shift in perspective."
A guiding concept of Autrey's work today — with his clients and also in his own personal life — is to "destroy your demons."
"It's a hopeful thing, he says. "Destroy your demons, get past it, you know — grow."
This vibe has made the 33-year-old an in-demand tattoo artist among folks around Richmond who will brag that Autrey did their first tattoos.
He says he learned to kill some of his own demons along the way, partially by helping others: "Everyone has the capability to put into the stream of life rather than take out of it."