Last weekend the ninth International London Tattoo Convention took place at the Tobacco Docks in the East End of London. The world famous convention saw tattooers come from all over the world presenting their work to eager customers where visitors could look in on the artists at work. Spanning the likes of countries from America, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Japan and various countries in Europe the breadth of variety in styles was truly impressive. The ultra commercial likes of Ami James and reality TV worthy tattooers appeared worked alongside the authentic Brooklynites of Smith Street tattoo and New York Adorned all in the space of a couples of metres. The huge variety of skill and talent varied to such extremes all in one space that it was overwhelming to digest the energy of the maze like rooms of the Tobacco Docks.
What is possibly the most fascinating thing about the convention was the notion that the visitors are all going for the same experience, to get to tattooed or observe the practice, but the varying talent and styles of tattooing was so huge that most of the visitors had completely different tastes and expectations for visiting. It is hard to compare the convention to any other consumer experience, visitor go to consume a new tattoo or simply buy a ticket to observe and socialise.The mainstream stereotype that ‘the tattooed’ were once ex-prisoners or sailors couldn’t have been more outdated during the convention. There were the die hard tribal enthusiasts having their skin imbedded from the tattooers at Into You or Brent McCown traditionally using tatau then rubbing shoulders with the Essex clad young women and men visiting the convention like some kind of shopping experience- to purchase the highest quality celebrity inspired version of a tattoo that they could. This was strangely compared with the Steampunks observing photorealistic black and grey portraits and monumentally beautiful traditional Japanese back pieces being completed by the likes of Horikazu of the Horiyoshi III Family. There were people at the convention who had less in common with one another than the same individuals who would shop at the same clothing shop however society considers the to need to get tattooed as this overarching similarity and in many ways some kind of deviance from society by choosing to get tattooed. The convention was a real showing of how integrated tattooing now is in our contemporary culture, it seems perhaps obvious to mention that there are any many different types of tattooing; we know that, but the way in which differing classes, tastes and talents were enjoyed was through a much larger variety of people than possibly any other consumable creative event could deliver.
Pietro Pravettoni documented details of the event throughout the weekend and has created Sang Bleu the photos below.