Dale, 1977. Tattoos by Cliff Raven. Photo by Robin Ryan.
Dale’s nipple piercings were done by Buddy Mcfall at Chicago Tattoo Company when it was at 900 Belmont. Buddy performed the piercing with a pair of needle-nose pliers with needle and thread, and Dale had to move the thread back and forth through the piercings during healing. Piercing wasn’t always welcome at early tattoo conventions, so walking around displaying pierced nipples must have caused a few raised eyebrows.
I first met Eizo Mamiya in Amsterdam (where this photo was taken) in 1995. We’d meet again in Toronto at the first MODCON event a few years later in 1999. He was a frequent travel partner of Japanese modification documentarian Ryoichi Maeda.
Eizo began piercing himself in the late 1980s, and is recognized as one of Japan’s earliest piercing professionals.
I don’t have much information on this image other than that it was sourced from a newly acquired Kodachrome slide that dates back to the late 1970s and features Sailor Sid Diller at an unnamed San Francisco tattoo show. Photographer, event organizer, (convention? show? his name tag turns to a blur when the image is enlarged) and all other relevant data may be lost to the ages, but at least the image, some forty plus years old now, survives.
Early tattoo conventions were an integral part of the tattoo community developing and expanding before the rise and eventual decline of the tattoo magazine and the ubiquity of the internet, but they often ostracized attendees who were also in the emerging body piercing scene. Still, they provided a space where devotees could meet at local (often gay leather) bars near the convention or in hotel suites to share their passions, and slowly but surely the two subcultures merged and became part of a bigger community.
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.