Tag Archives: Charles Gatewood

Not so erotic tattooing and body piercing.

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.

Erotic Tattooing & Body Piercing IV

It really surprises me that in an era where we have unprecedented access to high end video recording/editing options and proliferation of tattoo conventions and suspension meetups, no one has taken the bull by the horns and started producing content by/for the body modification community with the same zeal that pioneers like Charles Gatewood, Royboy Cooper  and Michael O. Stearns did back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. There’s never been a time with easier access to modified subjects to interview, high definition recording via smartphones, editing on free programs on most brands of laptop computers and outlets like Youtube, Facebook, Sacred Debris, Modblog around to host the content yet there’s still a tangible lack of content that can rival what those folks produced going on 30 years ago.

Gatewood’s Flash Video label produced some of the best content of it’s time, with documentary series like Painless Steel, the Weird titles (Thailand, which was his best seller, San Francisco, America) and Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing as well as a pretty impressive collection of one off titles. For my money, the best of the bunch was Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing vol V. Filmed at the Meadowlands tattoo convention in the early 1990s, it featured a collection of  personalities that included Jack Yount, Wild Bill Krebs, Emil Gundelach, Mr. X and Ron Athey. Most of the restored video will be available for Sandbox members, but for those interested in the Flash documentaries I suggest checking eBay every now and again. They occasionally show up at a decent price.

Flash Video content © Charles Gatewood.

Alan Oversby

“Alan Oversby, better known by his professional alias of Mr Sebastian (chosen, naturally, after the famously pierced Saint…) was born in Liverpool in 1933 and became enamoured with body piercing in the 1950s whilst working on a sugar plantation in British Guiana. He had seen nipple piercings on some field hands, and persuaded one of them, over a few glasses of rum, to pierce him. Returning to Britain, he trained as an art teacher in the Midlands, and became increasingly enamoured with modifying his own body, first by re-piercing his own nipples, then (imitating an illustration of an African man  he had seen in an anthropology book) inserting a ring into his foreskin. Eventually, he got tattooed. Indeed, he first shows up in the press in the mid-1970s, as a customer of long-standing London tattoo artist George Bone, cited precisely to demonstrate the practices middle class credentials. ‘He is a teacher’, the article tells us, ‘ and as such one of the professional minority who frequents tattoo shops:

‘I thought about it all very carefully before I began. If you don’t you end up looking a mess.’ Alan is tattooed solidly from  the tops of his arms down the front of his body to his legs with the designs placed in such a way that he can wear a short-sleeved, open-necked shirt without any of them being visible. This is not to avoid incurring opposition in the school where he teaches, but ‘to make sure my mother doesn’t find out. She would be terribly upset if she knew about it’ Continue reading

Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing IV: Cutting by Esther

While mostly known for his contributions to the world of photography, the late Charles Gatewood produced a series of films documenting the various subcultures he had become renowned for photographing. Under the FLASH VIDEO banner he released a library of incredibly rare films on VHS tape that included the Erotic Tattooing & Body Piercing series, the Painless Steel Series, the “Weird” series that included visits to San Francisco, New York and Thailand (his best seller) and an impressive assortment of fetish one-offs.
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Charles Gatewood Memorial Celebration

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Friends, family, loved ones and admirers of the legendary Charles Gatewood will be meeting on Sunday July 3rd 2016 at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco, California to celebrate his life and legacy. The Facebook RSVP will be your main source of up to date information: https://www.facebook.com/events/1573260856305045 with general details to follow:

“San Francisco’s Family Fetish Photographer”, Anthropologist, Author, True Believer, Beloved Friend and Brother

WHEN: Sunday, July 3rd, 2016
Gather: 4:30 PM
Memorial: 5:30 – 7:30
Afrerglow: 7:30 – 10pm

WHO IS INVITED: Everyone who would like to attend and remember and/or pay tribute to Charles Gatewood; old and new friends, fans, colleagues, admirers, lovers, as well as anyone who has been inspired by Charles’ work…..YOU!

PLEASE BRING: Memories, stories, art, performances, show and tell items, photos, altar items…There will be some open mic time for those that want to say or present something short. Be creative!

WHERE: Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street (Between 9th and 10th streets), San Franciso, CA.

WHAT TO WEAR: Please come as you are or dress up if you like. Charles was an artist and loved toys, props, and accessories! Feel free to don your favorite fetish outfit or best costume.

CAMERAS: We will be documenting parts of the memorial for CSC and the Charles Gatewood archive. Those who choose not to be in any photos or videos will be honored.

Well, that’s photography for you

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I’ve been lucky in my life to have met a great number of people that I would consider to be a “big influence” on me; for the most part I’ve kept my cool when our paths finally crossed- after all they’re just regular folks despite their accomplishments and I try not to get too star struck or fanboy-y.

On May 5th 2009 I found myself pacing in the hallway at the Tropicana hotel in Las Vegas, for once honest to goodness nervous, about introducing myself to Charles Gatewood. More than ‘just’ a photographer, Gatewood has been a documentarian and anthropologist without rival for the last five decades, capturing emerging subcultures before anyone else even knows they exist. Bikers, Mardi Gras revelers, Nudists, Wall Street stooges, Leathermen, Rock’n’Rollers and Modern Primitives- his cameras were always there to capture a time and place that few others dared to go.

How could I not be nervous?

A few seconds after a mumbled “Mister Gatewood, do you have a minute?” greeting, I was put instantly at ease by his charm, kindness and humor. We chatted, nothing serious, and I finally girded up the stones to ask him- the man who did a book with Burroughs and introduced Fakir Musafar to the Re/Search folks- if I could ask to take his picture. He smiled and said “of course,”

I snapped the shot, we chatted a few more minutes and went our separate ways. The next day I told him that I blew the shot- poor lighting, slightly out of focus and he smiled- again that smile- and said “well, that’s photography for you!”

On April 8th 2016 Charles suffered a fall from a third floor balcony. He’s been placed in palliative care and is in the care of an amazing Hospital team as well as his friends and family. His longtime friend Annie Sprinkle had this to say:

He’s in the best ICU in California, his nurses, doctors, and the palliative care team is excellent. Charles even has some nurses who know him personally. We were all sad, but also relieved he was on his way to freedom from suffering. So now is the time to send him lots of LOVE and support, pray if you pray, dance if you dance, or do whatever it is you do, and let him know energetically that you care. I personally believe he will feel it. It just might help. The medical team can’t predict how long Charles will be in this world; perhaps hours, perhaps days, weeks.. no one knows…It’s strange to tell you this on FB. But a consensus of a few of Charles’ friends agreed that the energetic support is more important than being super private right now. Also taking into consideration how Charles publicly shared intimate details of his personal life through his art. Plus we felt that his many friends and colleagues around the world might want to know to be part of this next chapter and this process.

At 12:30am on April 28th, 2016 Charles Gatewood passed away. He was 73 years old. His partner Eva was holding his hand as he passed. Rest in Peace, Charles, and thank you.