Fascinating footage of a tattooing convention that was held in St Paul Minnesota in 1978. This was shot a good ten years before getting tattoos became such a common, fashionable thing to do (Believe it or not, giving someone a tattoo was illegal in New York until 1997). How times have changed.
In 1991, I did a piece for Showtime—very similar to this one—at what was then the very first “Inkslinger’s Ball” in Los Angeles (over 9000 attendees) and the topic was even then still considered somewhat “edgy.” (I even interviewed some of the same people. One of them, I won’t say who, was significantly worse for wear a decade later.)
At that time, the main reason people told me that they wanted to get heavily tattooed was to indelibly mark themselves as not being of mainstream society. One woman compared her tats to the warning markings on a black widow spider, letting people know to “back off,” which I thought was a good way of putting it.
Point is, even as recently as 22 years ago, tattooing was really only then entering the “acceptable” mainstream. Over and over again during the day I shot at the Inkslinger’s Ball, I kept hearing some variation on the theme of “tattooing is finally becoming socially acceptable,” the very same thing that was being said in 1978.
These days people seem to get tattoos, I think, for largely the opposite reasons as they did then: less to cordon themselves off from the rest of society, and more like “I want to be different, like everybody else.”