Shawn Porter has spent the majority of his life in the modification world. As a body modification archivist and documentarian, he has one of the most extensive collections of documents relating to the early American body modification community in existence. He edited the SPC website from 1995 to 2005, co-founded ModCon, was the host of ModCons 3.5 and 4, and created and hosted The Scarwars Project from 2004-2007. In 2011 Shawn launched Occult Vibrations, a blog devoted to traditional American tattoos with a focus on the occult and esoteric. He currently resides in Philadelphia with his wife Julia and their creepy pets Mr. Bailey Papers and L. RonBenet Ramsey.
Phil Barbosa was the event photographer for all of the ModCon (and the first Scarwars) events; shooting on analog film he captured modified subjects in a studio atmosphere right in the heart of the chaos that was an underground surgical convention.
Occasionally he’d step in front of the camera in between documenting the goings on. Here he is alongside Blair at ModCon 4, 2003. Images from MC4 never appeared in the books or media associated with the events, so this is a rare glimpse inside the penultimate Toronto modification gathering.
I can’t remember what the first question I ever asked Jim Ward was; I’m sure it was three in the morning and I was going through a stack of photos and needed to identify the subject in a print and saw that Jim was active online so I shot a quick message out (or any number of other “Jim, do you have a second?” scenarios that have come up since then) without really appreciating how blessed and privileged I- and we as a piercing community- was to be able to have Jim around to help bring the early years of our communal history to life.
I’m certainly appreciative of it now though. Jim is infinitely patient and engaging with those of us who are passionate about modern body piercing and it’s history. For years I’ve been an evangelist for his book RUNNING THE GAUNTLET, (which you can pick up here) because it allows folks who were too young to experience Jim’s era of piercing a window in; piercers who weren’t born when Jim hung up his needles and retired from being a professional body piercer. But the crew at 23rd Street Body Piercing have upped the ante, inviting Jim Ward to spend a few days in November at their shop, offering one on one visits with one of the most important figures in the history of body piercing. What’s more- you can also get pierced by Jim during your visit! Piercings would have to be pre-approved by Jim, but let me tell you this is an amazing opportunity. From 23rd Street Body Piercing:
“We are super excited to announce that Jim Ward will be doing a guest spot here at 23rd Street Body piercing this November! There are only 20 spots available. If you want to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to have 1-on-1 time with Jim you’ll be required to place a $500 non-refundable deposit all of which will go to Jim. This industry would not be what it is today without him, please show your support.
To book please click the link below. If you have any questions please email [email protected]
*The hour with Jim may be spent in what ever way you may seem fit. Your hour can be a rare chance for a good visit, and could also include getting pierced. Piercings performed in that hour must be pre-approved by Jim at the time of booking and included in the appointment notes section of the booking.”
This is a rarer than rare chance to pick Jim’s brain, maybe leave with something shiny, and show your support to a true pioneer!
Silver Nitrate, applied via long wooden matchstick type applicators, was a popular choice for cautery by modification practitioners back in the 1980s/90s for less invasive procedures like meatotomy and clitoral hood splitting. While cutting lower down the shaft might require a more surgical approach, complete with sutures, opening the urethra (usually to a healed Prince Albert piercing hole that acted as an anchor) was an in-and-out procedure that could be done practically blood-free.
The nitrate was moistened with distilled water and rolled onto the edges of cut open tissue, causing a light chemical burn that helped to keep the tissue from reopening; as a side effect the patient was left with a blackish stain on the affected area that would usually only last for a week or so.
This photo from 1992 features a healing meatotomy with silver nitrate stains. Continue reading →
Back in the mid 1990s, IN THE FLESH magazine ran a profile on a self amputee calling himself Stonehenge; using a chisel and rubber band tourniquets, Stonehenge was in the process of reshaping his hands and feet by removing fingers and toes at various joints. Interestingly, ITF chose not to share photos of his modifications. I immediately got in touch with him and started a correspondence; over the years I knew him as Stonehenge, Toecutter, Subtracting and R.K. (his real name) but apparently we can add Chop Off to the list. My spcOnline site was the first to publish pictures of his modifications.
R.K. is an interesting fellow, eccentric and energetic and always willing to discuss his unconventional hobby. Shannon Larratt filmed an interview with him in the 1990s that was sold on VHS through BMEShop, but I was surprised to discover he’d done an updated film appearance in 2008.
Charles Gatewood, iconic photographer and counterculture anthropologist, released somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 documentary films through his boutique FLASH VIDEO label. Films that ranged from profound to prurient with titles like Fangs of Steel, Messy Girls and the Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing series, the Flash Videos were niche content at it’s most niche. When I spoke to Charles about production runs in 2015, he told me that the average title started with a run of 50 units, with more being duplicated if needed. Twenty five years later it’s no surprise that an entire generation of body artists and admirers have come up that have never seen the Gatewood films.
The good news is that the Body Piercing Archive- the archival wing of the Association of Professional Piercers- was gifted the rights to the archive and plans are in place to capture and preserve these lost treasures; something I’ve been doing as well with my personal copies.
For my money, the best of Flash was the fifth volume of the Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing series; released in 1992 or 93 and filmed at the Meadowlands Tattoo Convention, #5 features Jack Yount, Emil, Mr. X and a host of other luminaries. The photos taken of Jack that day are among my favorite images of him and he often spoke of being photographed by Charles. This brief clip, filmed the same day as his photoshoot in 1992, was shot on Jack’s 8mm camcorder, with a show and tell with a client of Fred Corbin’s. This is the first time this footage has been seen in 25 years.
My search for a video of a rare dolphin piercing from BRAVO’s Mike Natali has been unsuccessful, but I’ve been finding lots of great video shot at his Brandon Florida shop in the mid/late 1990s so it’s been a fair tradeoff.
This apadravya was performed on a friend after an intense SM session where the client’s friends comforted and reassured him during the piercing; not standard piercing practice in 2017 but at the time it wasn’t that unusual for ‘enhancing’ piercings to be performed in a ritualized sexual context.
This video is presented for archival purposes only and should not be considered a how-to.