A few months ago our friends over at Yellow Beak Press sent a box full of VHS cassettes for archival and preservation. The tapes were a few decades old and in various states of magnetic decomposition; audio loss, video loss or spot on perfect. It’s always different and surprising what I’ll find when I pop a tape into an equally aged VCR and push play.
This short clip that dates back to the early 1990s features Calamity Jane of Tomboy Tattoos talking about her career and being a female tattoo artist in a time where it wasn’t so common. The audio had degraded substantially (I bumped it up 400% and tried to balance out the resulting hiss) but it’s worth watching.
“I’ve heard that the Internet is a powerful form of communication”- Scott Harrison.
A much less embiggenable version of this video used to be available on Scott Harrison’s HEADBAND BROTHERS website. It’s probably one of the greatest films ever made. Much more enjoyable than, say, Citizen Kane or The Godfather. Check it out.
This clip is an excerpt from an 8mm (film) recording made by Sailor Sid Diller at the Kissimmee, Florida shop of Ken Meyer sometime in the 1970s. It was converted to VHS tape in the mid 1980s and reimported to digital earlier this week at 720p and restored as much as possible though the tape has suffered considerable digital rot.
My buddy Scott sent me this link earlier today- a great look into the 1970s UK tattoo scene.
From the description:
A sample from a 1975 film by John Samson Tattoo (1975) – 20 mins.
A documentary film based on the art of tattooing, tattoo artists and their clients, with interviews exploring the fascination for, and the reasons behind choosing to be tattooed. The film builds up to long climatic scene, often since replicated in other films on the subject, featuring tattooed bodies displayed as art objects. Typically, Samson had himself tattooed during the making of the film.
I was pulling over some footage from a 1986 VHS tape from Sailor Sid Diller’s collection today when I found another snippet of a documentary featuring iconic tattoo artist Cliff Raven. I have no information on this documentary; I’ve found several segments of varying quality on older VHS tapes in my archives. I’ve done my best to balance out the sound and picture, but with most of these older videos it’s a bit of a challenge.
A lot of these tapes were compilations; pulling footage from 8mm film, VHS camcorders and copied documentaries shared with other tattoo artists. I’ll continue to add footage as I find it.
I found a little more footage from “Tattoo Take Two” featuring Cliff Raven today while scanning a thirty year old VHS Cassette that belonged to South Florida tattooer Sailor Sid Diller. It’s a short clip- just over two minutes and forty seconds but it’s the cleanest footage I’ve found so far. Still has that faded ‘copy of a copy’ look, and obviously it’s over 30 years old, but… we’ll see what I can do in Final Cut Pro!
From television I’ve learned that tattoo artists are bitchy, whiny, backstabbing rockstars who will purchase an SUV in cash just to throw other tattooers under it for the chance to win the coveted title of Best Ink Master Tattoo Titan. This of course earns them industry wide respect, fame and fortune. Television has also taught me that the residents of Springfield haven’t aged a day in 20 years, that J.R. was never shot (it was all a DREAM) and that people actually find Ryan Seacrest interesting.
In short- TV lies to us. About everything. If the local weatherman (Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz here in Philadelphia) tells me that it’s snowing, I generally poke my head out the door just to make sure. And obviously we know that the tattooists on Ink Master don’t represent the majority of the ladies and gents who make a living tattooing every day, going into work without drama or ego to put on rad tattoos on appreciative clientele before heading out at close with the same passion for tattooing they started the day with- but what about the people who aren’t us? There are people who have tattoos and there are tattoo people. If you’re reading OV you’re probably a tattoo person; we’re niche enough that we’re not really read by the Instagram likers who are looking for the next famous artist to swoon after until someone cooler comes along. But for people with just a few tattoos (or none at all) who think of tattoo artists as temperamental reality tv stars who wear spikes on their sunglasses and constantly ruin Traditional tattoos….
There’s VICE’S game changing TATTOO AGE series, Marcus Kuhn’s globe trotting GYPSY GENTLEMAN and with hope- more projects from independent filmmakers who love tattoo culture and want to see it documented in a more positive light. Like Ivar Myhrvold. When he shared his first short with me- Kreativitet & Tradisjoner (Creativity & Traditions)- he told me not to sugarcoat things in my review. It was his first real project and with first projects there’s always that fear of not finding an audience who appreciates it. I’m really glad he took the shot. The short features Oslo’s Morten Transeth from Old Blue Arms Tattoo sharing his story- how he came to tattooing, why he tattoos the way he does and why he feels fortunate to be under the pressure of constant creativity.
If this is Ivar’s first project I can’t see where he goes next.
For those of us who don’t speak Norwegian- Ivar has provided a subtitle option. Just click CC button on the video.