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 is commendable.
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?”
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. Continue reading →
I’ve finally finished capturing all of the video from ‘Silver Anchor Video Reel 4’ with the last section being in the worst shape of everything that I was able to import. The original source was likely a VHS Camcorder and the footage dates back to somewhere between 1984-1986 when the tape was completed, with this clip featuring Sailor Sid Diller tattooing at the Silver Anchor tattoo studio in South Florida.
Sid would trade this tapes with other tattoo artists, piercers and enthusiasts all over the world, making compilations (mix tapes!) of his tattoo and piercing clients for the small community of dedicated modification fans on his mailing list.
This video finds him using a rotary tattoo machine to add color to a client’s crotch/penis tattoo. Like a lot of the history videos we post, this clip is intended for documentation/archival only. It features an artist working in less than sanitary conditions; wearing gloves wasn’t standard practice until a few years after this film was shot and viewer discretion is advised.
Another contribution from Ron Garza’s video collection, this clip features Ron performing a strike branding on a client’s neck. The popularity of strike branding- applying heated metal to the skin to burn the tissue and form a controlled scar- has waned in the years since the introduction of more predictable forms of scarification like ESU branding and cutting with flesh removal.
While he’s internationally known as a major influence in the advancement of modern body suspension, Allen Falkner has worn many hats in his two decades in the Body Modification community. In addition to suspension he’s also carved out a reputation as a respected body piercer and most recently as a laser tattoo removal specialist. Despite knowing Allen for almost twenty years and having him onhand to photograph the first Scarwars event, I never knew he was also a scarification artist.
For a while anyway.
Allen was kind enough to submit this video the the SD Archival project- his second cutting circa 1995. I asked him why he stopped cutting and he had this to say:
“I stopped cutting for 2 reasons:
1) there just wasn’t much of a demand
2) I’m not much of an artist- all of the designs I cut were drawn up by other people.
I was going into it rather blindly, as most of us were in the 90s. I knew no one else that did it, or at least didn’t know them personally and it was hard to find any information on the subject. I guess the biggest reason is that I felt my skills weren’t what they should be, which is the same reason I never became a tattoo artist.
If I can’t be great at it, then I think I should step down and let other people do it.
I think if I stuck with it I probably would have gotten a lot better, but again this goes back to the no demand issue.
Another thing is that I’m a jack of all trades. I’ve done a little of pretty much everything. The problem with being a JoaT is that you never really master one. I stuck to piercing and suspension and honed my skills. I would still be happy to cut, brand, and tattoo. I still do from time to time; but they are just for fun. I don’t think I will ever sell my skills on those trades.
I leave that to the pros.
Allen has been digitizing some classic 1990s suspension and modification video footage lately- I can’t wait to see what comes next.
You can find out more about Allen Falkner here: FADE FAST