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In The Shadows – The People’s History Of NYC Underground Tattooing


In The Shadows – The People’s History Of NYC Underground Tattooing

– 600 Pages

– 8.5″ x 11″ Size

– 4 lbs

In The Shadows- The New York City Tattoo Underground years- 1962-1997

Clayton Patterson and his wife Elsa began to document and nurture the culture, art, and personalities of illegal, underground New York City tattooing during the mid-1980s. “In the Shadows- The People’s History of New York City Underground Tattooing” is the record of their important effort. 

“In the Shadows- The People’s History of New York City Underground Tattooing” documents the diversity of voices and images of the irrepressible New York City tattoo community that together represented the art and culture of tattooing that refused to go away during the “Shadow Years”.  –  Michael McCabe 2023

The book features articles and photographs by Ed Hardy, Nick Schonberger, Eddy Portnoy, Carmen Nyssen, Marisa Kakoulas, Michael McCabe, Nick Bubash, Clayton Patterson, Mike Malone, Bill Heine, Ruth Martin, Kate Hellenbrand, Jonathan Shaw, Mehdi Matin, Mike Schweigert, Allison B. Siegel, Jennifer Blowdryer, Joe O’Sullivan, Diane Farris, Veronica Vera, Andrew “Zee” Sistrand, Shane Enholm, Christine Braunberger, Tattoo Dan, Patrick Kitzel, Dian Hanson, Daniel Lukes, Carlo McCormick, Alessandra DeBenedetti, Scott Machens, Erik La Prade, Kate Majarov, Roger Kaufman, Ethan Hill, Ron Kolm, Ari Roussimoff, A.J. Herold, John Wyatt, Efrain John Gonzales, Charles Gatewood, Wes Wood, Amy Dupcak, Stanley Stellar, Daniel Lukes, Sean Vasquez, Michelle Myles, Marcus Pacheco, Timothy Hoyer, Rob White, Lorraine Bautista, Jose ‘Cochise’ Quiles, Howie Abrams and many more

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Rumors abound but the practice of tattooing in New York City was not illegalized in October 1961 because of health considerations. Instead, the practice was banned for culturally valuistic reasons. To this day, the NYC Health Department has no record of any substantiated complaints of infection caused by tattooing on or around 1961. In its decision, the New York State Appellate Division called tattooing “A barbaric survival often associated with a morbid or abnormal personality.” During a time of supposed modernizing attitudes, tattooing was identified by some in power as an embarrassing pastime of the past that needed to go. 

Tattooing did not disappear in the city in 1961. Instead, existing tattoo artists and patrons adapted to the ban and strategized how best to carry on in the shadows with the insuppressible art form. For 36 years until the relegalization of tattooing in the city in 1997, the practice was reframed by its new underground, countercultural, outsider mystique. Some tattooers like the Coney Island legend Brooklyn Blackie retired and moved upstate. Others went underground; Coney Island Freddie tattooed in Staten Island, Tony Polito and Mike Perfetto in Brooklyn, Angelo Scotto in the Bronx through the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s with an aura of tradition. During the 1970s, in iconoclastic, trendsetting downtown Manhattan, tattooers Thom deVita, Mike Malone, Richard Tyler, Ruth Marten, Mike Bakaty, Cat and others tattooed an expanded image lexicon from their artist loft studios. For a few years during the early 1980s saxophone player Bob Roberts, tattooed a rock and roll clientele in his loft a few blocks away from the legendary Max’s Kansas City night club where he played with notable punk rock bands.  

The book documents several noteworthy underground New York City tattoo shop settings that played the odds there would be little if any consequence to tattooing illegally. Jonathan Shaw and his influential Fun City Tattoo shop is featured. Shaw operated in the back of a custom leather shop on E. 1st Street between 1st and 2nd Ave in the East Village several years before the 1997 re-legalization. He invited groundbreaking tattoo friends like Filip Leu to do guest spots at his shop and this upgraded the overall vibe of the illegal backdrop. Lori Levin and her New York Adorned jewelry boutique is featured in the book. Located between E. 2nd and E. 3rd Streets on Second Ave., the ‘back room’ area of the boutique established a reputation in the pre-relegalized scene and invited respected and talented tattooers to do guest spots. Timothy Hoyer, Marcus Pacheco, Sean Vasquez and CIV also cut their teeth in the underground NYC scene and are featured in the book.

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