Are you tattooed everywhere? Genital tattoos have seemingly slipped in popularity over the course of the last few decades. Flip through photos from the collections of Jack Yount, Sailor Sid and Mr. Sebastian or the pages of Jim Ward’s PFIQ or Fakir’s Body Play & Modern Primitives Quarterly and you’re likely to find as many people with erotic tattoos as without. It’s a shame really, and something I hope to fix in my own tattoo collection sooner rather than later.
Bob had his penis tattooed in the early 1980s by Cliff Raven; this photo sees him displaying it after a bit of vacuum pumping.
The tattoo community was a much different place back in the 1970s when this ad for Cliff Raven’s Sunset Strip Tattoo Studio ran in the pages of the venerable DRUMMER magazine; being an out, gay tattooer was a much bigger deal than it is in 2017. Despite a clear lack of diversity and a culture that was considerably less evolved than I like to think we are these days (though watching the news has me wondering) Cliff was able to maintain the respect of his peers through clean, solid, built to last tattooing. In the last few years I’ve been lucky to see a handful of 30-40 year old Cliff Raven tattoos that have stood the test of time. Attempts have been made to capitalize on his name- including a clothing line and branded wine- but to date, thankfully, nothing has materialized.
While he excelled in tattooing traditional Japanese subject matter, I’ll always have a soft spot for his muscle boys and homoerotic imagery.
From the background it appears to have been taken in the mid-1970s at Cliff Raven’s studio in West Hollywood at or near the completion of my first tattoo. ~ Jim Ward
It’s always a treat when piercing and tattoo history intersect; here we have The Gauntlet/PFIQ’s Jim Ward with a freshly worked on tattoo by Cliff Raven. Inspired by Japanese tattoo designs, Raven’s work was bold, clean and made to last.
Over the last few years there’s been a rise in popularity of smart phone photo apps and filters that mimic, with mixed success, the imperfection of antiquated camera and processing anomalies; over exposure, light leaks and just enough distortion to make pictures that will likely never exist outside of the digital realm look like well aged prints.
It’s always a trip when I’ve got a photo in-hand where you can see the basis for those filters and gimmicks; like this polaroid positive of Viking Navaro’s black graphic phallus tattoos by Cliff Raven with really distinctive light spots that add tons of character to an already larger than life subject.
Another example of solid black tattooing by tattoo legend Cliff Raven. Taken at his Hollywood studio in 1982 featuring a glimpse of Bob (last seen in Bob’s back) and Sid Diller’s fresh blackwork. While primarily known for his large scale Japanese influenced work, Raven was also an early adapter of solid black ‘pre-technological’ style tattooing.
Raven, born Cliff Ingram, won the Tattoo Artist of the Year award from the First Annual International Tattoo Convention in February 1976. 1
The 1982 publication of Ed Hardy’s Tattoo Time: New Tribalism 1 is generally considered to be the nodal point for the popularization of (predominantly) solid black pre-technological ‘tribal’ tattooing; featuring articles on indigenous tattooing from Borneo, Samoa and the Pacific Islands it’s fair to say that it was the book that launched 1000 rosettes.
But there were tattooists who made use of the black graphic aesthetic before Hardy and Zulueta made it famous; artists like Cliff Raven, Thom DeVita and Davey Jones (who was responsible for Fakir Musafar’s iconic back tattoo) also saw the potential in solid black non-representational tattooing.
This back piece- dated early 1980s- is on a gentleman named Bob H who also sported a full torso ‘tribal’ design influenced by Pacific Northwest Native Haida designs and geometric black designs.
Tattoo artist Cliff Raven- primarily known for his Japanese tattoo design- was also an early adapter of black ‘graphic’ tattoo art like the not so subtle penises he put on Bud Navaro’s legs in the early 1980s. Bud was also a stretching devotee, having stretched his scrotum, foreskin and nipples.
I’m still working on importing content from a VHS video from Sailor Sid Diller’s collection; at points the tape decay is frustratingly bad, but I’m doing my best to recover as much as I can. Continuing with the tattoo theme, this photo features homoerotic tattooing by Cliff Raven; the back of the photograph (taken by Sid) says that the placement of the hand- right by Emil’s scrotum, was intentional. No dates on this, but I’d say 1980-82.
I was pulling over some footage from a 1986 VHS tape from Sailor Sid Diller’s collection today when I found another snippet of a documentary featuring iconic tattoo artist Cliff Raven. I have no information on this documentary; I’ve found several segments of varying quality on older VHS tapes in my archives. I’ve done my best to balance out the sound and picture, but with most of these older videos it’s a bit of a challenge.
A lot of these tapes were compilations; pulling footage from 8mm film, VHS camcorders and copied documentaries shared with other tattoo artists. I’ll continue to add footage as I find it.