Updated: Mar 18, 2019
Being asked to write your first editorial of an event you are already photographing is a daunting prospect, period. So bear with some hastily cobbled together words.
The day dawned bright and warm, for a February morning. Railtrack indicated no problems on the trains for my journey over, so after packing my photography bag, I walked down to the station...RAIL REPLACEMENT SERVICE are awful words to see...yep they'd cancelled all trains and not updated the website. Back home I go to get the car. An hour later and I am sitting in a traffic jam in Brighton town centre - they have a thing about not wanting cars, in the same way that trains don't seem to ever run when you want one. Not to be deterred, I arrived an hour later than hoped for, but I arrived safely.
Not knowing what to expect, nor being 'into' tattoos, I was amazed at the queue to get in - do people really go that mad to see tattooists?..oh yes very much so. I picked up my pass, and walked in to the sound of the buzzing of hundreds of needles peppering skin with inks of all shades. In the foyer was a walk-in barbers (who wouldn't want a new style to compliment the new ink), Indian street food, a burger stall selling 'make your own', for those who in need sustenance and a break, after so much skin art.
The ground floor was where I started my wanderings, camera in hand. I am a street and concert photographer by choice and the indoors of the convention sat between these two genres as far as the camera went. It took a short while to get my eye in and take in what was actually going on around me - there were tattooist stalls from all over the UK, Europe and beyond - skin was being coloured using machine driven needles and what looked like a very painful hand chisel being jammed into a client's finger; although obviously this is only my somewhat unknowledgeable view. A labyrinth of booth after booth after booth, offering walk-ins for as little as £50 for a reminder of your day, or pre-made appointments - one client had booked their tattooist of choice for the whole weekend; I shudder to think on the cost of that.
Up the stairs to the first floor, and an even bigger space awaits - probably twice as many booths with this time the addition of stickers, prints, postcards, and even T-shirts for sale, and even some for free! If you don't leave here inked, your wallet/purse is still likely to feel lighter. Trade stalls selling ink of every hue, needle heads for every budget, and some items I still don't know what were for; shows how much I know about tattooing in general. A piercing studio was available for those who wanted metal pushed in to an assortment of places, none of which was for public viewing, but as no screaming was heard I can only assume all went well within.
There was even musical entertainment across both days with a host of live bands including The Fuzillis, The Long Tall Texans, The Bitter Pills, Mr. Airplane Man, Nosebleed and Skinny Milk, and there was also guest DJ’s.
The standard of art-work on show and in progress was amazing - life like portraits adorned those looking to idolise (20192699), Celtic and Pagan artwork for those wanting something traditional, smashed glass effects (20192818), full length pieces, in fills and cover ups abounded. There were just as many females as males being inked, and also doing the inking, as the rise in equality in all things continues. The sounds of hundreds of needles, the 'smell' of adrenaline and endorphins, greets you at every turn. I found myself drawn back to one or two art-in-progress, and the resultant photos show this. Being essentially unadorned myself, it was fascinating to watch inch after inch of skin being covered up, and wondering at the levels of pain that these men and women endure.
The quantity of latex gloves, cling film, cleaners and ink consumed over the weekend must have been staggering - cleanliness and safety is paramount in this business and well shown at the convention. And after 3 hours carrying 2 cameras and snapping all that needed to be snapped I headed back out into the winter sunshine on Brighton seafront. Would I go again? Damn right given the opportunity...2020 anyone?
Full selection of images from the day, can be found here.
Whilst the Brighton Tattoo Official page is here.