Tag Archives: Modern Primitives

Well, that’s photography for you

charlesgatewoodsacred

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.

ManWoman Day

This post originally appeared on my Occult Vibrations blog on 11/13/12.
In the years since his passing, friends and fans of Manny and his crusade to ‘take back the swastika’ have dubbed November 13th ‘Manwoman Day’- I think he’d get a chuckle out of that.

In 1989 I lied about my age and ordered a copy of RE/Search Publications now classic “Modern Primitives”. At the time I had already started getting tattooed, pierced and modified but the book showed me that there was a community of people interested in the same things I was. I read it cover to cover, time and time again.

One of the folks featured was a Canadian artist named ManWoman who’s mission was to reclaim the Swastika from it’s misuse from Hitler and the Third Reich, and to reintroduce it to the world as the ancient and loving symbol it is. To that end, Manny had both arms tattooed symmetrically with Swastikas from all over the world. Hundreds of them. Big ones and small, each mirrored on the opposite arm. I didn’t know what to make of it, or him for that matter.

Years later, wandering around the NYC Tattoo Convention at the Roseland Ballroom, an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself. “Shawn? I’m ManWoman. I’m glad to meet you.”

We chatted for almost an hour and I found him to be a sweet, caring man passionate about defending and reclaiming the Swastika for sure; but also passionate about art and human advancement. Before we finally parted ways, Manny reached into his bag, pulled out a copy of ‘The Gentle Swastika’ and handed it to me as a gift between two new friends. I pull it out from time to time, to show folks who don’t quite understand the Swastika’s history and I always remember Manny with a smile.

Earlier this year when my life was turbulent and unstable, I got a message on Google+ from Manny. He could sense that I wasn’t really in a good place, and he sent me a Happy Swastika image with a note telling me to cheer up. We chatted back and forth and I ended up with a goofy grin on my face, knowing that somewhere in Canada Manny took some time out of his day to cheer up someone he had only met face to face once.

Manny lost his fight against cancer today. His light and legacy will live on in everyone who’s life he touched.

Thank you, Manny, and rest in peace.

 

The Illustrated Man

michaelwilsonsacreddebris

One of the most recognizable faces from the 1980s tattoo scene belonged to performer Michael Wilson who joined iconic personalities like Fakir Musafar, Hanky Panky, Anton LaVey and a host of others in RE/Search Publications seminal 1989 book Modern Primitives. He appeared in the Bruce Springsteen video for the song ‘Tunnel of Love’ and performed for the legendary Coney Island Sideshow.

Wilson, who got his first tattoo at the age of 13, passed away at the age of 44. This photograph dates back to the mid 1980s and comes from the collection of Jack Yount.

”He said in his dreams, he had no tattoos.”   1