While Charles Gatewood is primarily known as a photographer, his contributions as an anthropologist/sociologist and cultural engineer shouldn’t be overlooked. For every iconic image he captured on 35mm film (and printed, fetishistically, in silver gelatin) there was a story behind it, and with his FLASH VIDEO boutique label of films he was able to chronicle the behind the scenes experience as well as create an unprecedented time capsule of the subcultures he documented in print.
I asked him once how many copies he’d produce of his Flash titles; “Hey! I used to run 50 VHS and more if necessary. WEIRD THAILAND was my best-seller and the PAINLESS STEEL series sold a few hundred of each title” – which is mind-blowing; particularly the, “more if necessary” as it could mean that certain titles sold fifty or less units/had less than fifty sets of eyes on them in their prime, much less thirty years after their release. The amount of passion it took to have created these films for such a niche audience shouldn’t be overlooked.
The last message I got from Charles, in December of 2015, sums it up nicely: “Some people laughed at my strange documentaries. Who’s laughing now?”
Not a super exciting photo, but the contents of this 1980s era VHS tape that was filmed in the home/tattoo studio of Sailor Sid Diller, have recently been archived and soon, excerpts will be showing up here on SD.
Sid was a tireless documentarian; photos, videos (both film and tape) and letters were exchanged with the small but passionate pre-boom piercing community from his Florida home. This video featured Sid, Bob Houle and a few unnamed piercing fans. And a lot of body shaving.
In 2009 I shared a short clip with BME/News of an interview between Sailor Sid Diller and Tattoo Samy with the promise to eventually get the whole video digitized for archival. This blurb ran along with the video:
“Samy appeared in P.F.I.Q. #18 (1983) and #19 as the magazine’s first documented tongue piercing. This clip has audio and video glitches (that Roo was kind enough to clean up to the best of his ability) present in the original VHS; that’s why these are so important to share. Once the original masters degrade – this stuff could be lost forever. I hope you guys are enjoying these glimpses into our not so distant past!”
Tonight’s Sacred Debris “video Tuesday” was going to be the full video with a higher resolution capture.
It turns out that the 2009 post was all too prophetic- the cassette had degraded since the last time it was played to the point where the tape had snapped. All hope isn’t lost, as I’m going to be on the lookout for anyone with experience in splicing VHS tapes (which is probably a skill-set who’s days are limited) so we can permanently archive this footage; until then swing over to BME/News for the original clip:
If any of you techie folks can manage to extract that video file from the page, please get in touch. I’d like to make sure to have that copy on my backup drive just to be safe.