During the mid 1990s I was occasionally contracted to attend tattoo conventions on behalf of bmezine.com; while content was being contributed to the website, BME’s editor Shannon Larratt figured that targeted content- particularly the kind that was often photographed in hotel rooms on a more discrete section of the modification community- would be worth the cost of plane tickets, hotel rooms and an incredibly humble per diem.
This being the age before digital cameras were in common usage, all he asked was that I try to get at least two rolls of film per event. Forty-eight images. Before it was a community driven site (a process which started with the password wall on BME/extreme and took hold with the creation of IAM.BME in 2000) the acquisition of content was king at BME; if people didn’t have dynamic images to view, they’d move along. Having strong photos to hook viewers into sticking around long enough to encourage them to share their own was a major focus of the boom-years of the site.
This photo was taken on one of those sponsored trips, on the convention floor at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Portland, Maine. At the time, facial tattoos and body piercing were frowned upon at some conventions, so a gentleman like this was a welcome sight.
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.
In the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction, Harvey Keitel’s iconic character Winston Wolf tells Joe’s daughter Rachel (Julia Sweeny) that “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character.”
The early days of the western body piercing revival were filled with characters; eccentrics who’s body piercings were often the least interesting thing about them, who could be in a room full of folks who marched to the beat of their own drums and still defiantly stand out.
This photo, taken in 1993 at the Pinns and Needles Convention in Tampa, Florida finds a pair of characters hamming it up for the camera; Wild Bill Krebs (left) and Jack Yount sharing a laugh and a story that would be, no doubt, too risqué to print. At the 2015 APP Conference and Expo a few of use who remember Bill decided that a yearly award should be given to people who exemplify Bill’s legacy; someone who’s heart is big and who’s capacity for getting into the best kind of trouble always ends with a whispered “you won’t believe what happened to me last night” anecdote….
Jack passed away two years or so after this photo was taken on 15th July 1995. Bill passed away July 6, 2007. Both are very much missed.
Another scan from the 1986 Knoxville, TN tattoo convention, featuring Sailor Sid Diller (yellow shirt) and in the far left corner ironic tattoo artist Royboy Cooper. Scanned from a 3×5 print. It’s possible that Big Ed Fenster is the gent in the checkered shirt behind Sid, but it’s hard to tell without seeing his face.
Artist: Steve Haworth (implants)
Year: 1998 (September)
Location: South Beach, Miami (Eden Roc Hotel)
Photographer: Shawn Porter
I first met Hiro in September of 1998 at the Crowe & Dwyer Tattoo Tour in South Beach Miami. Even surrounded by heavily tattooed people, Hiro stood out; his large forehead implants and stretched nostrils were pretty far out for a tattoo convention in 1998 and every time I tried to introduce myself I’d find him surrounded by photographers.
Steve Haworth finally got us together in his hotel room, and with the help of his interpreter we were able to get to know each other as I documented his modifications. He was in the States collecting work; tattooing from Grime and Guy Aitchison as well as implant and modification work from Steve.
When I ran into him several years later he had added beautiful facial scarifications to his already impressive body of work.
Crossposted from Occultvibrations.com, this video features sideshow performer The Enigma being tattooed, simultaneously, by 22 tattoo artists at the 1995 Amsterdam Tattoo Convention.
Original source: 8mm video tape.
Filming location: Amsterdam Holland.
Filming date: May 1995.
Featured: The Enigma, Alex Binnie, Bob Vessells, Horiyoshi 3, Timothy Hoyer, Permanent Mark and more.
I shot this footage in 1995; it’s shaky and has had the audio removed due to copyright concerns.
A different edit of this content appeared on Occult Vibrations in October of 2013, focusing on the tattooers working the 1988 RVA Tattoo Convention hosted by Grandpa Groovy. I was scanning through my ‘rejected clips’ folder and found this snippet- featuring Master Piercer Jack Yount showing off his backside tattoos and a nipple piercing being performed on the convention floor. Fairly uncommon for the late 1980s.
It’s a quickie, running just over two minutes.
During it’s two decades in print, P.F.I.Q. magazine featured the work of an impressive lineup of photographers; the work of Jim Ward, Fakir Musafar, Diane Mansfield, Mark I. Chester, Michael Rosen, Charles Gatewood and Efrain John Gonzalez (alongside the wonderful submitted content) helped capture a scene when it was much smaller and more intimate.
I’m fairly sure II first met Efrain in May of 2000 at the NYC Tattoo Convention at the Roseland Ballroom, which is when this photograph was taken. On honest-to-god 35mm film. I found him to be incredibly sweet, welcoming and mischievous and over the years when our paths have crossed he’s always been armed with a smile and a camera.
I figure most readers of Sacred Debris are familiar with both of these gents- Manwoman (seated) and Jon Cobb.
Jon’s legacy in the piercing scene is as one of it’s greatest agent provocateurs and technicians, he originated (or popularized) a small handful of piercings that, though still fairly uncommon, changed the industry in ways that are still being felt. His ability to defend his techniques and placement- freehand piercing, nape piercing- set him apart from someone who just threw caution to the wind and did something new for the sake of ego.
Manwoman (February 2, 1938- November 13, 2012) was a Canadian artist, writer and musician who came to greater attention after his appearance in RE/Search Publication’s Modern Primitives in 1989. His book The Gentle Swastika documented his life’s work- The rehabilitation of the Swastika through his artwork and collection of pre-WW2 memorabilia.
I’ve been hesitant to post any Swastika related content up till now; it comes with the pretty heavy tariff of having to field complaint emails- usually from irate, uninformed and downright hostile folks who don’t know about anything other than it’s usage by the National Socialist Party or from those who feel that it’s just a tad too controversial to even bother trying to explain otherwise.
We’ll see how it goes.
You can see more of Efrain’s photos at http://hellfirepress.com