Editor's note: As I'm away on vacation now, we have the wonderful tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman back to guest blog. Her post has some invaluable info on important texts that you want to seek out for your own tattoo education.
RIP Donald Richie
By Anna Felicity Friedman
The news of Donald Richie's death on February 19 prompted me to dig out my copies of his works on Japanese tattooing and brought back a flood of memories of being a budding tattoo scholar back in the early 1990s, when library catalogs consisted of index cards organized in tiny drawers and the only real way to find out about then-obscure works on tattoo history and culture was via word of mouth (Ed Hardy, who was incredibly generous and supportive of my early tattoo history efforts, tipped me off to Richie's work as well as others').
It occurred to me that Needles and Sins readers might enjoy a round-up of some of these earlier works on Japanese tattooing--all but one of which are out of print today. You can find them in certain libraries (and a few via interlibrary loan), for purchase (albeit in limited quantities and often for a considerable price tag), or, in one case, online.
Sandi Fellman, The Japanese Tattoo (New York : Abbeville, 1986, 1987): In 1990, when I found a copy--on clearance--at the RISD bookstore of Fellman's incredible coffee-table book of photography of Japanese tattoos, I had just started getting tattooed and knew I would be sleeved (or more) someday. But these photos astounded me and still fuel tattoo desires today. The sleeve I commissioned in 1993 when I was just 21 years old was directly inspired by the images in this book. A photograph of a shishi tattoo by Horikin on his wife lingered in my memory until I had it inscribed in 2000 on one side of my torso--ten years of image persistence speaks volumes, I think, as to the power of the photographs in this book (as does how wrinkled and worn my copy is from incessantly paging through it). When I looked to find out how rare this book might be today, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the second edition is still in print! And for a very reasonable price (it's even Amazon prime eligible). So go buy it!
W. R. van Gulik, Irezumi: The Pattern of Dermatography in Japan (Leiden: Brill, 1982): Another of the books that Ed Hardy recommended to me in 1992, van Gulik's book impressed me with its incredible level of scholarship--it was perhaps the first volume I had read that made me realize tattoo history could be a serious academic pursuit, complete with nerdy footnotes and scouring of archives. Van Gulik's book introduced me to the phenomenally striking Ainu tattooing as well as the concept of a prehistoric tattoo history that might be recovered from incised figurines. I have absolutely no idea where the School of the Art Institute librarians found a copy of this for me to borrow via Interlibrary loan, given that the book was, and still is, fairly rare (with fewer than 100 copies listed in Worldcat today). I was excited to discover recently that the book is now available via Google Books!
Donald Richie and Ian Buruma, The Japanese Tattoo (New York: Weatherhill, 1980, 1982, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1996): This collaboration between Richie and Buruma features some incredible photographs of older Japanese tattoos, when the style was what I would call more of a folk-art and less of a fine-art aesthetic--not as polished, rougher, more raw. It also has some phenomenal photos of tattoos in progress and amazing candids. The foreword is by Horibun II who offered Richie and Buruma what appears to be then-unprecedented access to his studio and process. For those of you who read Japanese, the bibliography gives an impressive listing of earlier texts about Japanese tattooing to track down. The later 1989-1996 paperback reprints can be found secondhand fairly easily (and for a not-too-terrible price) via Amazon and Abebooks. But the hardcover version is worth seeking out for those of you with the funds to add it to your book collection (it also features a much more compelling cover design than the paperback).
There has been some exciting buzz surrounding tattooed women, and it hasn't been in the form of the latest celebrity regret or the alt-model home wrecker. It has been about our tattoo godmothers, the women who bore full colorful body suits and traveled beyond their kitchens. The ones who first picked up a machine and had men lining up at the door to pay them for art and nothing more. The original riot grrls of the early 20th century whose impact could be seen on the skins on feminist punk rockers in the eighties to the tattooed lawyers of today.
That media buzz has come from the recently released third edition of Margot Mifflin's Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo.
Tattooed women, clothed or not, are a sexy subject. The New Yorker's feature on the book and its accompanying slideshow has been posted on Facebook over 20,000 times. The link to Flavorwire's article and slideshow has been messaged to me from all over the world. Even my mom, who logs onto the Internet only when reruns of Murder She Wrote are preempted, sent me this The NY Times link from yesterday. [Mom: "Oh look, a book on tattooed women. You should look into it." Me: "Um, mom, I'm in it."]
Being in this book is important to me on many levels. Margot released the first version of Bodies of Subversion in 1997. At that point, I only had two small tattoos and was hungry for any information I could find on the art. I searched tirelessly for tattoo tomes. There were plenty of references for indigenous tattooing and books that told the stories of the men who brought back tattoo souvenirs from tribes, and also Japanese masters, to America and Europe. At the local bookstore, there were records of oral histories from gritty tattooers who worked on sailors streaming into port. There were no records on the women who did the same, at least not exclusively on the subject. The information could be found in the Women's Studies section of university libraries but was conspicuously absent outside of academia.
Margot brought the discussion of tattooed women into popular discourse -- from sideshow attractions to Victorian society women to women tattooers who struggled in the 70s and 80s to change tattoo culture, such that young tattooers today can say that being a woman is a help not a hinderance to their profession.
The new edition of Bodies of Subversion includes most of the wonderful information she provided in the first edition. It also talks about how today's explosive popularity of tattooing has changed perceptions of tattooed women--but also how a lot has stayed the same. During the course of her research for this edition, Margot and I chatted a lot on this. Upon completion of the book, I wanted to know how she felt about all the new material she had acquired and written about.
Our Q&A is as follows:
What is the highlight of Bodies of Subversion for you personally?
The highlight is the new chapter on the new millennium--especially the section on the artists themselves. The general quality of tattooing has improved so vastly since my first edition was published in 1997 that the sheer volume of good work was a pleasure to see. My task was happily impossible: there was no way I could have included all the women worthy of coverage; I had to pick a few dozen to spotlight in order to illustrate certain developments or trends or techniques.
Any particular aha(!) moments? Did you learn anything in your research that surprised you?
I was surprised at the number of lesbians artists working now. Virtually no one I interviewed for the first edition identified as a lesbian. This time, five or six women talked about it and I was surprised to hear that even in this historically male dominated and even historically macho profession, lesbians are not getting a lot of attitude from other tattooists or customers--even outside of New York and San Francisco.
What was the most difficult part to get info on?
The appalling dearth of black women artists--even 30 years after Jacci Gresham became a household name in the tattoo world. It's not like there aren't tons of tattooed black women--half my black students are tattooed. There are just so few women doing it, and it was difficult to nail down the reasons without having access to artists who could talk about their experiences. Jacci Greshman helped me, and a couple of artists in particular I found, Kimberly Williams in New York and Alex Smith (from Chicago),were very thoughtful and articulate on the subject, and ultimately helped me theorize it.
Tell us about the greatest change between this edition & the first volume.
Kat Von D. If you had told me in 1997 that within 10 years a woman would be the single most famous tattooist in the world, I would have laughed. Back then, women artists were just struggling to make a living and happy to get some media coverage and respect.
The draw to tattoo culture -- what was it for you?
It grew out of my interest in visual art. I don't see how you can be engaged with fine art or design and not have some interest in tattooing--especially as it's evolved in the past decade and because of the fact that you can't avoid seeing it every day. In my opinion, this is a huge cultural blind spot for most visually literate people I know. Tattooing is a fascinating and technically difficult art that's layered with sociological and anthropological meaning. Sure, most of what you see is awful (which some would argue is also true for contemporary art), but you have to consider what's happened to it in the hands of the people who are bringing a more sophisticated design sensibility to it and propelling it beyond the fixed iconography of its folk legacy--there's something very interesting and radical happening there.
I can write a thousand more words on this exceptional book, but you must read it for yourself. You can purchase Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo for just $15 on Amazon.com.
What better gift can one give than of art and inspiration, especially when the source is a family who has given so much themselves to our tattoo community?
The Leu Family, for generations, has transformed the way we view tattooing, a craft that can be a fine art in itself. And in doing so they have excited a movement among tattooists to pursue mediums outside of skin.
In the recently published The Art of the Leu Family, the Leu's continue the tradition of enlivening the creative spirit by sharing their own art work in a beautiful 192-page volume, complete with 152 color and 38 black & white images. The book is authored by Aia Leu, daughter of Felix and Loretta Leu, and one of the many talented artists of the clan. Aia, who studied art in Vevey, Switzerland, lives and paints in Ireland and has been exhibiting her work since 1999. The foreword and preface are by Eva Suszkiewicz and Loretta Leu.
The book is now available for pre-order on the Seed Press site for 40 Euro (approx. $53 US), and it ships worldwide in January.
Here's more on The Art of the Leu Family from Seed Press:
With a unique approach, this colourful book illustrates the work of a creative family of artists from Switzerland, spanning the years 1953 to the present. Eva Aeppli the first wife of Jean Tinguely, was the artistic pioneer of the family. Her children are Felix Leu aka Don Feliz and Miriam Tinguely.
In this second post on upcoming titles by Edition Reuss, we share our great excitement over Dr. Lars Krutak's new book "Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification."
The 400-page, large format hardcover looks at healing, protective and shamanic tattooing and scarification across the tribal world -- a world that Lars has explored in his 15+ years researching tattoo traditions and rituals (a number of which he has experienced himself). [Read our profile on Lars here.]
More on the book from Edition Reuss:
[...] "Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoo & Scarification" journeys into highly sacred territory to reveal how people utilize ritual body modification to enhance their access to the supernatural.
The book will also be out in September, and can be purchased for 98 Euros. You can pre-order the book in the US on Amazon for $150 or contact Lars directly for signed copies and special offers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
German publishers Edition Reuss -- those fine folks who have published my tattoo books -- have two gorgeous new hardcovers that will be released this September. I'm writing about them in two posts today.
"Traditional Tattoo in Japan: HORIKAZU. Lifework of the Tattoo Master from Asakusa in Tokyo" is another monster hardcover with more than 460 photos by photographer Martin Hladik who has documented the life and work Japanese tattoo master Horikazu for years until his death. Stunning images -- from rows of men with full bodysuits by the master to intimate looks into his family life -- populate the 492 pages along with interviews with Horikazu (2011) and text (German, English, & French) on Japanese tattoo traditions by Miho Kawasaki, Fiona Graham, Agnes Giard, and Eberhard J. Wormer. The master's successor, Horikazuwaka, further offers insight into the art of tattooing in Asakusa and "the recognized dynasty of tattoo artists."
Photo by Martin Hladik.
Portraits and close-ups of Horikazu's work are presented in the large format (29.2 x 29.2cm), full cover art book. There are also photos from the Sanja Festival in Asakusa, and finally, images from Horikazu's funeral where his close friends pay their last respects.
A must for lovers of Japanese tattooing -- and all forms of tattoo art.
Look out for it in September on Amazon.com, Hermansky Books, and Last Gasp, among other book sellers. The book retails for 120 Euro, about 146 Dollars.
Photos by Martin Hladik.
Along the lines of stellar art books by stellar tattoo artists in our gift guide today, I present "18 Angles of the Human Skull" by Kore Flatmo in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This second edition -- now in easy to carry book form -- takes the original content of the popular first version and adds even more value, including five pages of new drawings, sixteen paintings and a tattoo section. The book is not only a collection of exciting art but also is an excellent reference for those seeking to refine their memento mori tributes in their own work. If you're looking for a great way to tip your artists this holiday, "18 Angles of the Human Skull" will do the trick. You can purchase it for $100 on the Plurabella online store.
While you're there shopping, also check his fine art prints and apparel. Prints by Brenda Flatmo -- like this Nick Cave portrait -- are also available.
Seems like the tattoo art books listed in our Holiday Gift Guide are a hit, so we have another great pick: "Life Under My Skin -- 40 portraits de tatoues" by Paris-based journalist Anna Mazas.
This 168-page paperback features beautiful portrait photography of 40 tattooed people from around the world as well as interviews with these collectors about their work. The text is in English and French -- a great way to brush up or pick up some language skills.
Akin to the "London Tattoos" book, what is particularly excellent about "Life Under My Skin" is -- not only the full credit given to some stellar tattooists whose work is featured -- but also the discussion of the relationship between these artists and clients. Anna's text reveals more than just choice of artists and art work, but also something intimate about the wearers.
The portraits are engaging, with 10 photographers bringing their own different perspectives to capturing tattoo culture. These photographers include: Chris Coppola, Julien Lachaussee, Thibault de Saint Chamas, Nicolas Menu, Christophe Klain, Brice Beillant, Aline Dery, Aude Grandveau, Rosario Sanz, and Aurelie Verdie.
You can purchase "Life Under My Skin" for 24.90 Euros here. For more images and info, also check the book's Facebook page.
One of the most common questions tattooed people get on a regular basis is: "What does it mean?" There's an assumption that some momentous event must occur to inspire those who permanently mark themselves. For many, it is hard to understand tattoos as "art for art's sake."
With this in mind, I was pretty thrilled when I opened up Alex MacNaughton's new "London Tattoos" book, and read this in the very first portrait profile, which is of 43-year-old Alice Temple:
My tattoos don't mean anything to me other than I like being covered in tattoos. It's a purely visual thing. I like the look of almost anyone who is covered, and I knew I wanted the same. What I have on me is almost irrelevant. What is important is the artist who works on me.Alice's story is her lack of a story. It may not make for good reality TV but it's a great way to start a beautiful photography book where the subjects reflect on their tattoos and tattoo artists. Indeed, it is the props to the artists -- where the tattoos featured are specifically credited to each tattooist -- that makes London Tattoos more than just pretty pictures and personal musings. You may actually fall in love with a tattooist's work based on what you find in these pages. [Alice's primary work was done by Nikole Lowe, which she further explains.]
But I really do dig the pretty pictures and reflections of the collectors. In these reflections, there are some compelling narratives behind the tattoos, answering the "what does it mean" question for those unsatisfied with the "because I like it" response. One of my favorites is that of Professor Richard Sawdon Smith, head of the Art and Media Department at London South Bank University. [A part of his spread is shown below.] Here's an excerpt from his story:
My tattoo is a very personal project made public. It speaks of living with a long-term incurable illness that requires regular blood tests on a tri-monthly cycle for the last 16 years, making the visible the internal and highlighting this regular routine.
If you're not a big reader, the photographs are sure to hold your attention. The award-winning photographer -- who has authored three street art books -- offers intimate close-ups of the tattoo work that accompany the portraits. See more in this gallery. But Alex states that his goal is not to have a book simply showing tattoos: "I want to show how tattoos are a reflection of a person's character and lifestyle, how to live with them and how tattoos can enhance confidence and success in life." Right on!
Extra bonus: The foreword is written by our tattoo history guru, Dr. Matt Lodder, who also takes off his clothes in the latter portion of the book.
You can purchase the 304-page paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com in the US.
BUT before you do, enter to win a free copy! The Prestel Publishing sent us a copy for one lucky reader. As usual, the winner will be selected randomly from those who comment on this post in our Needles & Sins Syndicate Group on Facebook or who Tweet at me. In one week, December 16, we'll put all the names of the commenters/tweeters into Randomized.com and the internet gods will offer up the chosen ones.
UPDATE: It seems the fabulous Dr. Lodder is offering a copy of his own to a reader in the UK. So when you comment in Facebook or on Twitter, let us know if you're in the UK.
This Saturday, Nov. 26th, from 7-10PM, tattooer and musician Dan Smith will be signing his new book, "With the Light of Truth" at Sacred Gallery in SoHo, NYC.
Described as "A collection of tattoos, art, and profiles of some of the best Straight Edge tattoo artists in the world," the 256-page hardcover is filled with imagery that will inspire those beyond the drug & alcohol free community. [See sample pages below.]
In this video with Tattoo Artist Magazine, the LA Ink star says the "super-intensive" book is a project he's worked the hardest on in recent years, and represents his friends and something he cares a lot about. A list of artists featured and news on "With the Light of Truth" can be found on Facebook here.
The book is released by Memento Publishing and available for purchase via Dan's online store or at the book signing at Sacred Gallery. Complimentary Shirley Temple drinks will also be served.
For those on the West Coast, there will also be a book signing on December 10th in LA at Kat Von D's Wonderland Gallery.
You can find more on Dan and his tattoo work at DanSmithTattoos.com. And to hear his music, head to Thedearanddeparted.com.
Art by Grez of Kings Ave.
Art by Steve Byrne.
An inspiring collection of 250 illustrations created by 90 tattooists fill the 300-page hardcover Latino Art Collection: Tattoo-Inspired Chicano, Maya, Aztec and Mexican Styles, another tattoo tome published by Edition Reuss and authored by Edgar Hoill, aka OSOK. [Edgar & I co-authored Black & Grey Tattoo last year.]
The renowned artists, from LA to Mexico City to Hong Kong, include Jack Rudy, Chuey Quintanar, Carlos Torres, Nikko Hurtado, Pint, Indio & Melissa Reyes, Boog Brown, Wa-Wang, Tim Hendricks, Antonio Mejia, Goethe, Luke Wessman, Dr. Lakra, Yushi Takei, Pedro Alvarez (who did the cover art), and so many more.
You can purchase the book for $160 + shipping here.
I was honored to write the introduction and the pages noting the various symbolism in the works. For an overview of the book, an excerpt from that introduction is reprinted below:
Painting by Carlos Torres.
Latino art is as vast and diverse as the cultures it represents. There are, however, popular themes, aesthetics and symbolism that make it an identifiable artistic genre--one that is vibrant and exciting, and reaching far beyond just the Latino community. Latino artists celebrate their cultural identity in contemporary culture as well as their ancient Prehispanic roots. Catholicism's religious iconography dominates so much of this art, whether it be on canvas, walls, cars or the human body. Personal struggles and the hardships of street life are laid bare; it is, for many, a cathartic expression of loss and redemption. And, of course, reverence for beauty and sexuality is omnipresent. This book is a collection of paintings, drawings, and tattoo flash that represents the soulfulness of this genre. Its goal is to present the many incarnations of Latino, Chicano, and Mexican art and to inspire countless other works.Illustration by Boog Brown.
In addition to the book, also check Egar's OSOK online store for his prints and apparel.
Aztec and Mexican Styles
Indio & Melissa Reyes
Latino Art Collection: Tattoo-Inspired Chicano
We're thrilled to see the recently released "Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed" by Carl Zimmer blowing up with glowing reviews in The NY Times, The Atlantic, Publisher's Weekly, NPR 360 and so many more. For years, we've been fans of Carl's blog The Loom, and Science Tattoo Emporium -- sites that feature the science-inspired tattoos that formed the basis of the book.
The 288-page hardcover presents the best of the sites' tattoo submissions and is divided into 13 chapters, which include astronomy, math, chemistry, evolutionary biology, neuroscience among others. But it's more than just tattoo photos. The tattoo images are accompanied by insightful text from the renowned science writer that speaks to the subject of the work as well as the collectors' stories.
Publisher's Weekly offers more on Zimmer's own story behind the book:
"Noting a colleague's DNA-inspired tattoo at a pool party, science writer Zimmer (A Planet of Viruses) wondered how widespread the phenomenon of the inked scientist was. He solicited pictures for his blog, The Loom, and, inundated with photos and stories from scientists and laypeople alike, quickly became a curator of science-inspired body art. Mary Roach's foreword lays out why, given the passion with which so many approach their fields, it should be no surprise to encounter this worldwide tribe whose obsessed love for every far-flung corner of science's domain was marked permanently on their bodies."
For a peak inside, check this slideshow of tattoos on The NY Times site as well Flavorwire's blog post and The Atlantic.
My one criticism of Zimmer's blog and the book is that not all the tattoos presented credit the tattooist. I hope that this will change on the site to complete an otherwise great project.
On October 1st, my latest book project "Tattoo World," which I edited for Abrams Books, hit the shelves of book stores in North & South America as well as in Europe. And now it's time to party.
Once again, we're joining forces with our homies at Tattoo Culture to celebrate the book's release and their sixth anniversary this Friday, October 7th. Drinks and snacks will be served to all you fabulous people. The party starts at 7PM and ends promptly at 10PM. For more info, check our Facebook Event Page. Tattoo Culture is located at 129a Roebling Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. [Map]
Hope to see ya there!
On October 1st, one of my latest book projects will hit the shelves of major bookstores: "Tattoo World," published by Abrams Books, is a 384-page hardcover featuring 1,000 tattoo images from 125 stellar artists -- artists I stalked for over a year in order to have them be a part of a book designed to show a mass audience the possibilities of tattoo art. As always, I'm utterly grateful for their participation.
The text is by Michael Kaplan, a well respected journalist who has written for the New York Times, Wired and Details. Michael interviewed the artists for profiles that accompany the collages of their work. The cover art is created by Chris Conn Askew, which was then laser cut for 3-D effect.
It was an interesting experience working with a large US publisher, representing the interests of our tattoo community in a project designed for a mainstream audience. [A big difference from my monster books for Edition Reuss, which are specifically geared towards serious collectors and artists.] I am excited that the average person can walk into a chain like Barnes & Noble, pick up "Tattoo World" and find out about Horiyoshi III, Filip Leu, Paul Booth, Guy Aitchison and others who have had a profound impact on the art. The book isn't limited to the "big names," however, and highlights the work of some emerging artists pushing tattoo in new directions. Of course, we couldn't include every brilliant artist (and not everyone agreed when asked). I do believe the work shown will inspire people to do more research and learn about the many tattoo masters across the globe.
As with any book release of mine, there's a party. Once again, we're joining forces with our dear friends at Tattoo Culture--who are celebrating their six year anniversary--for a joint bash in their Brooklyn studio.
Mark your calendars: Friday, October 7th, from 7-10PM. Click here for address & map. More on Facebook.
The book is available on Amazon.com for pre-sale. For anyone interested in a signed copy, perhaps with a love note, I have only 15 books available to Needles & Sins friends for $35. First come, first serve. If you're interested, hit me up at marisa at needlesandsins.com.
Hope to see y'all on Oct. 7th!
Tattoos in layout above by Shige, Yellow Blaze Tattoo.
In 1973, Bob Roberts began his life in tattooing at The Pike in Long Beach, a waterfront amusement park that was home to many tattoo legends--legends like Bob Shaw and Col. Bill Todd who taught Bob the craft. It was an apprenticeship where one learned to be equally adept at removing a drunk from the shop as well as putting on a solid tattoo. Bob went on to work with Cliff Raven and Ed Hardy, who pushed tattooing to an even greater level of artistry.
With this education, he took off for NYC and opened his Spotlight Tattoo studio, and after three years, he returned to LA where Spotlight has established its place as a tattoo landmark, where top tattooing continues to be the mainstay.
In these past 37 years, Bob has garnered underground cred and mainstream popularity for his tattooing and paintings. In this time, he's also racked up a lot of stories. Yet these stories and artwork have never before been published in one volume.
To ensure this important part of tattoo history is not lost, State of Grace Publishing has created the very first book ever on the tattoo legend:
Bob Roberts: In a World of Compromise...I Don't.
The 304-page hardcover (10" by 13") will include never before seen tattoo and painting photos, an extensive interview with Bob Roberts with a foreword by Don Ed Hardy.
The first edition will only be a 1,000 copies, with a hardcover sleeve, signed and numbered. The pre-sale will be at the Ink-n-Iron show in Long Beach (June 11-13) and the All American Tattoo Fest in Sacramento (June 18-20). Then in late June, you'll be able to purchase the book on the State of Grace online store via PayPal for $300 US/$325 world. The book will ship out in August.
With a limited print-run for a book this rare (and rumored to be the best volume State of Grace has ever done), it's almost a certainty that the book will sell out in pre-sale so put it on your calendars. I'll also post a reminder next month. If you miss it, however, the softcover will be released next year.
Another must-have for your tattoo library.
When trolling around the Detroit Tattoo Expo this past weekend, I previewed an upcoming art book that will be a must for your library:
Pint Size Paintings: Miniature Paintings by Big Artists.
In essence, Durb Morrison and the Hell City crew have curated a 224-page hardcover art book featuring paintings done on mini-canvases, specifically 2" x 3". Fine art from top tattooists like Kari Barba, Aaron Bell, Zsolt Sarkozi, Nick Baxter, Guy Aitchison & Michelle Wortman, among so many, many others, are displayed in gallery format. With Volume 2 already in the works, Pint Size Paintings may grow to be the biggest collection of miniature artwork any where.
The canvases may be small, but there's nothing meager about the artwork. In fact, working on this scale was a challenge to many artists. I particularly like how Damon Conklin described it:
Miniature painting teaches the art of delivering only the lean nutrients of a piece ... graphic glorification of the lowest common denominator. No bones no fat no bullshit only the most important strokes of beauty.
The debut show of these mini- masterpieces will take place at Hell City Killumbus 2010 in May along with the book's release.
You can get a preview of the work yourself, including the ones below by Guy, Nick and Kari, on the book's MySpace photo page.
My guess is that the book will sell out fast, so it's probably best to pre-order it for about $30 from the Hell City Books online.
The Lizardman, born Erik Sprague, needs no introduction almost anywhere in the world. He has a new book out that I'll get to soon but first, a quick story:
A few years ago, I was on the Greek island of Chios, where my family is from, and went to a small photo lab to get some pictures printed. Now, Chios isn't your touristy kind of island, and unless you had a satellite dish, there was only a handful of TV channels to watch. But when I came back to the lab to pick the pics up, the owner couldn't contain his excitement: "The Lizardman, The Lizardman!" I stood there stunned and couldn't decide what was more bizarre, that the islanders knew of Erik or the hoppity dance the guy was doing. The shop owner then asked me a slew of questions like how do you know him, are those really tattoos, how do you split a tongue...I got my photo prints, only after answering all he asked, and left one Lizardman photo for him. As I was walking out, he said in English, "Tell Lizardman I like him very much."
The point of this story is that The Lizardman inspires excitement and curiosity from small Greek islands to NYC's Coney Island.
From 2003-2007, The Lizardman satisfied the curiosity of many by answering questions posed to him online in his column, Through the Modified Looking Glass, on BMEZine.com. He also interviewed other performers in his column like Mike Jones, Penn & Teller's tattooed jazz pianist; and Dick Zigun, "The Mayor of Coney Island."
With his book, "Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass," The Lizardman has collected, in one volume, his BME columns with notes and updates, in addition to three never before published columns.
The book is available online at Lulu for about $15. You can also order a special-edition signed and numbered copy (only 250 copies available) by contacting him via email. More info here.
My favorite part of the book is the Q&As, so I figured I'd share a bit with ya:
What words of advice would you have for someone interested in attempting a full-body transformation through body modification?
Get the rest of your life together first because the transformation will consume you otherwise. Plan, consider, revise, repeat. Find support before you begin. Think twice. Have a life besides the transformation project, in as much as it can take over your life at times, the project itself is not a life or a solution.
What is the biggest way your philosophical background affects your outlook on life, both as a modified man and as "just Erik"?
I take philosophy very literally - love of wisdom. Wisdom for me is the practical interpretation and application of knowledge / experience. The experience of life, while an end in and of itself to me, can be further enhanced through the practice of philosophy.
Why is my cat looking at me like I'm food?
You are food.
Having walked around with you in London, it appears to me that people seem more accepting and less fearful of you than some one with maybe only 25% tattoo coverage and a few facial piercings. Why do you think that is?
It's all in the presentation. Today it is a bit easier to attribute it to things like recognition but things today aren't much different than before I became the media whore I am now. I have always said that the key is how you present yourself. Nine times out of ten when people treat you like a jerk it is not because you have mods, it is because you are acting like jerk - walking around with some chip on your shoulder and not giving them the chance to be decent to you. Another theory I have is that it is easier for people to look at my project as just that - a project. It has an obvious theme and that reflects a certain amount of consideration. Even though this is the case for many other people, it is not as obvious to the casual observer and so instead of thinking 'creative person with an overall goal' they think 'punk' or 'thug' who doesn't give damn.
What wouldn't you do for a truckload of cash? Meaning, is there a moral you won't break for any amount of money?
I once turned down over $10,000 to eat a football as part of the super bowl halftime show. This was the same one that featured the infamous Janet Jackson nipple. Since no one else did it either I guess they dropped the bit or just couldn't find anyone. Frankly, the former seems much more likely. It wasn't so much a moral decision as it just wasn't my thing. I'm sure I could do it but I didn't want to. I don't have a lot of moral objections but I am very obstinate about only doing what I want or absolutely have to do.
Does it creep you out at all that someone has a tattoo of your face?
Not at all. I think it is incredibly cool. I just hope that down the road they still think it is as cool as I do. [You can find that portrait tattoo on this page (scroll down).]
Read more reptilian goodness in "Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass."
GritCity Inc. recently released a tattoo photo-book focusing on Philadelphia's tattoo culture: Tatted: A Documentation of Self Expression the Most Permanent Ways.
The Pure Gold Gallery, host to the book release party, exhibited images from the 160-page hardcover with this tag: "3 City Blocks, 1 Year, 1 Pad of Paper, and 1 Photographer."
That photographer is Philly's own Marianne Bernstein who hunted tattooed strangers along the three-block stretch of South Street for a year, asking if she could photograph them and their tattoos. She says that she approached about 100 people and only one refused. In addition to taking their portrait, she gave them her notebook and asked if they could write down what their tattoos mean to them.
The book opens up with an essay by Independence Seaport Museum curator Craig Bruns, who offers a history of the art in Philadelphia. He calls the city "the cradle of the American tattoo," noting that sailors brought tattooing to the "New World" when Philadelphia was the nation's largest port. Other essays include those by tattooists Guy Aitchison, Shawn Barber, Troy Timpel, and the old salt himself Philadelphia Eddie, among others.
Read more about the book's genesis in the Philadelphia Inquirer article, which also includes an extensive photo gallery from the release party and the book itself.
You can buy Tatted directly from GritCity for about $35.
PS: Ok, you know how much I hate the word "tatts" and any derivative thereof, but as Miguel keeps telling me, it's part of street culture and I need to chill. Considering the book is about street photography and tattoos, I will.