The Kind of Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

FG3A customer

When I’m going through stacks of unsorted prints looking for potential updates for the SD blog it’s easy to gravitate towards photos featuring heavily modified personalities from our community’s past; Viking Navaro’s atavistic aesthetic, a fully naked and smiling Sailor Sid Diller or Jack Yount showing off his Disney tattoos and subincised penis- it’s the kind of thing that tends to get the most notice and reblogs, which expose more viewers to the site where they get suckered into reading blurbs about decade old t-shirts and my often espoused theory that pants don’t necessarily have a place in a piercing room.

But for most piercers and tattooers those heavily modified clients are the exception and not the rule. The majority are casually modified, a few tattoos or piercings because they like the way it looks or how it makes them feel. They’re the clients who keep the doors open between (oftentimes needlessly) complicated ‘projects’ and conceptual nonsense that exists for a Instagram post and not much else.

In an1996/7 interview with now retired piercer Jon Cobb he relates the story of a woman who chose a single piercing over the expectations of falling in line with the status quo, proving that it’s not what you have, it’s why you have it:

“Our rites of passage are getting drunk, going to college, getting laid… But this is a moment where you really do have to earn it. This is going to hurt. Why am I doing this? And I get to maybe help you see that you aren’t what you do, and maybe it is alright that you want something for yourself, and maybe it would be OK to tell work to stick it this time, and if it doesn’t work out I’ll find a job where I can be me. So many people are starting to touch on that because we’ve set our world up to fail and I’ve got a chance to let them know what else can be. I’ve had a woman trade in a $50,000 job over her labret. It was symbolic of the bigger picture — as soon as she did it, she cried, and realized that she only needed $50,000 a year because $40,000 of it was paying for her huge house and her Jaguar that all she did was look at and cruise around in… and now she may be walking down the beach and eating oranges that cost a couple bucks a day. You want to tell me who’s having the better time? She’s living as a human, as part of the Earth, and not as an alien on it.”

This piercing/photograph came from Sailor Sid Diller’s Silver Anchor Studio, exact year unknown. (possibly early 1980s)

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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.

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