Humans of Phoenix


Click the photo to see how the portrait was made.

Lane immediately catches my eye when I first spot her at Jobot coffee shop. She wears a red t-shirt with a triangle cut out under the collar, like the backwards shirt Taylor Swift wore in 2017. She has two-inch black stiletto nails, and tattoos from her collarbone to her ankles. But it’s the shaved head that really makes her stand out: a Sinead O’Connor type of look but punk-ified.

I interview her at a picnic table near my house while she smokes a Marlboro light. Her square silver earrings reach her shoulders and her fake lashes brush her cheekbones when she looks down. She makes smoking look cool.

“It’s spelled L-A-N-E, like the road,” she tells me. I start the interview off strong, asking her what the most interesting thing about her is. She says “I don’t think that’s up to me.”

So I turn to one of her friends with the question. He shows me the stick-and-poke tattoo she’d given him of a broken heart. “Within an hour of talking to her, she was tattooing me,” he says. It’s a skill she picked up in jail, and now she carries ink and needles in her purse, using a bottle cap to hold the ink and paper towels to clean up. Her latest tattoo on herself is just a day old: a bandaid with “Oh Well” written on the wrapper.

Lane isn’t afraid to tell me what questions she doesn’t like. She doesn’t like when I ask her how many tattoos she has, or when I ask her where she sees herself in five years. Since she left prison, she says she lives day-to-day. “I have ambitions and aspirations, but I pretty much just try to live in the moment. I do think about the future, but I guess I don’t really think that far ahead.”

She was eighteen when she was arrested for selling marijuana and planning a burglary. When she was released two months early, she said she wasn’t happy about it.

“There’s a comfort in being institutionalized. I got comfortable not having responsibilities, you know what I mean? Not having to worry about things.” She lets the smoke waft up from her lit cigarette.

When I ask her if she’s religious, she tells me she’s spiritual. “It means that I believe in a higher power. It’s very necessary in my life,” she says. “‘I have a higher power and I believe that the universe is working for me. Always for me, never against me.”

She believes in astrological signs but not horoscopes. I honestly don’t know the difference, but reading her tattoos keeps me occupied during the interview.

She tells me middle aged women are usually the ones who stare.

“I just love their reactions,” she says. “I don’t think I could even call it disapproval. Maybe it is. My reaction to anything like that is, you don’t fucking know me. People are always so quick to make a preconceived idea of who you are because of how you look.” She takes a long drag from her cigarette.

“People don’t know shit.”

Follow Lane here.