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Charles Gatewood (1942-2016)

Charles Gatewood was a groundbreaking documentary photographer of American subcultures including body modification, sadomasochism, fetish, hedonism and social deviance.

Gatewood photographed Mardi Gras and Naked City on numerous occasions, the San Fransico gay scene, The Hellfire Club, Miss Bald America and Sex Clubs in New York. Through his work with tattooed people he was led into the subculture of body piercing. As he described it, body piercing was a sub-sub-sub culture he only learned about through the subculture of tattoos. In other words, Gatewood discovered previously unimagined underground scenes through photographic documentary of the various layers of American sub culture.

It was a mad crazy World that enthralled Charles Gatewood. The freaks, outcasts; the collective populace outside our idea of “suburban normal”. And that’s exactly why I love his work. Too many photographers refuse to look at the ugly, the unkempt, the discarded and unacceptable.

In a quick biography I have to mention Gatewood’s first commercial photograph sale was for “Dylan in Sunglasses and Cigarette, 1966”. He exhibited internationally and won fellowships and awards. But yada yada, this is all about those photographs of the grit and grime of his sub-sub-sub cultural experiences.

That is what fascinates us. The bizarre. The unusual. The irreverent and unacceptable. That was Charles Gatewood in a nutshell.

It’s sad that Charles Gatewood died in 2016 after an attempted suicide. Always a tragic end to a great life thinking and making meaningful work. If you can get hold of a copy of the 1985 documentary about Charles Gatewood, “Dances Sacred and Profane” then it’s well worth hearing the man discuss his work.

Charles Gatewood self portrait

Large woman nude on ground

Two men and a boy before Mardi Gras

Young man with tattooed face

Man's tattooed bottom

Tattooed and pierced man

Tattooed penis

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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