Friday the 13th is a fun day in Austin. Tattoo shops open all day and all night to give special discounts for small tattoos. I take the day off from work and went to visit a few shops to hopefully take a bunch of images.
I have been reviewing my images for an updated copy of my zine/book and have realized I need more variety of shots. One of my goals for the day is to shoot more than just people tattooing but the feel and energy of the shop. How do people move through it? Who moves through it? What is the shop about? This is something I'll actively think about going from shop to shop.
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Black Dagger
I revisit shops often because I'm comfortable with the people there and have a good idea of what I can shoot and how to do it. When you enter a scene for the first time you lose a roll getting a feel of the place and understanding the light. Maybe this will change over time but for me that first roll is usually very fast and gets my nerves out.
Black Dagger is a great shop with really awesome artists. They have a really open format and a few closed rooms, which are harder to shoot in. I use the open layout and a borrowed chair to kind of zoom in and out of shots. I'm comfortable with most the guys so I can get up close without either of us being uncomfortable. Usually when both the tattooer and I are comfortable so is the customer.
I spend most of my two hours at the shop shooting with a 40mm lens trying to capture a wider scene and interactions between people. I also go for the shots I always go for, portraits and standard documentary, but everything goes well and it's a comfortable and loose situation. After about 4 rolls I leave for the next shop.
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM A Million Tattoo
One of the tattooers I know from another shop invites me over and it's my first time there. Going to a new shop the first time is always dicey but having access helps. I've done the cold call thing and that is brutal on both sides.
When I enter I'm pretty sure that most people know why I am there but I'm also pretty sure most people aren't 100% on board. So I avoid the people who don't want pictures and move on. I find an empty seat and start to just take pictures sitting in that one spot. The traffic at A Million is great with stations being turned over every 20 minutes. This is perfect for me and let's me get in a bunch of shots and angles since the scene is literally shifting all the time.
The hard part is that I really can't move around and nobody is trying to make it easier for me. They are grinding away and I need to stay out of the way. But it's still super fun and challenging. From my one spot I switch to a 50mm lens and break a open 360 scene into smaller and smaller scenes. Shoes that are perfectly aligned, people waiting and looking and people getting prepped. These things sounds so mundane but when you're deep into a project it's really impactful to have these in-between moments.
I do have one disaster though, I over-wind a HP5 roll in the Leica. I know it happens and I go to the bathroom to try and get the film out of the camera. Losing the roll isn't terrible since it's my first roll in the shop but I have some good images from Black Dagger on it as well. I do my best to strip the roll from the camera and wrap the butchered roll in white non-light proof napkins and put it into my bag. I shoot about 3 more rolls and head back to drop off film. It's a little awkward but I'm happy with the number and type of shots I get.
5:30-7:30 PM Crash
I go back to film developer to drop off the rolls for development. I tell them about the HP5 and we agree to develop and see what happens, my hopes are low but I'm always amazed at how much salvaging they can do for me.
Heading home I plan on getting a quick nap and dinner but end up resting for an hour before I go to my last shop.
7:30 - 11:30 PM Royal Legion
Royal Legion has a crew and space that I really trust. Like most shops it's open but being so close to Spider House Cafe they get a different clientele and atmosphere that makes shooting there special. I show up and awkwardly hang out in the doorway taking pretty conservative images. Ray, the owner, kinda yells at me to get into the scene and be active.
Tattooers are artists and they know artists need to get pushed to get better. This shop more than others expects me to try new things and have less boundaries. It's no surprise I spend a lot of time shooting there and getting a really weird mix of shots. I go back to the 40mm due to the small room size and just blast away.
People flow into and out of Royal Legion in waves. In four hours I see a small storm pass through, a wide range of people flow in to peek around and hang out, everyone grabbing dinner and everyone having a good time. It's a wild few hours and I get shots of much more variety and closeness than I do at the other shops.
It's also where I get a little bit tired and end up "just shooting". This mode for me is post peak concentration and almost brainstorming shots with your camera. You're not trying to nail anything in particular but literally shooting at anything that is even remotely interesting. Click-click-click, rolls start flowing out of the camera. I'm still unsure if this is a good place to be but I do know it's getting close to closing time for me.
I arrive home pretty exhausted after a really long day of shooting. Moving forward I'll carry a light proof film canister and a film retriever since the over wind scenario was so hair raising. Shooting-wise it was a great day and I'm happy with the variety and number of shots I got. I shot about 12 rolls which is about 200-300 images, I'll get them back in a few weeks but for now I've survived another Friday the 13th and am totally looking forward to the next one.