Category: Video

Time-Lapse Experiments

I doubt these clips will work their way into the finished project. So think of them as sort of bonus features.

Early in 2012 when this project had a different focus, I tried a few different time-lapse techniques.

Trivia Bit:
The footage was shot in May, June and July 2012.
There’s a couple of clips with me in the foreground and Valerie tucked away  at the other side of the room. There is a couple of just me and my clients then there’s wide angle shots of Chris and Will from VICE filming us (for Valerie’s TattooAge episodes) while we work and then interviewing me.

Tech Bit:
I’ve done a little time-lapse before with my iPhone but I wanted better looking results and more control over exposure and focus.

  • First was with the GoPro Hero2 but the angle is a little wide and gives the feeling of CCTV footage.
  • Then I tried Valerie’s Nikon J1 which worked well but I found it difficult to set the aperture manually to a setting I wanted to use for a time-lapse shoot. Also the lens is only available with 3.8/5.6 aperture which often is not wide enough for what I wanted.
  • Finally, using the Magic Lantern firmware hack, I tried a Canon 600D (which is what most of this project has been shot with so far). This meant that I could use the lenses I already have, with their wide aperture and wide range of focal lengths. (most interviews so far were shot with 16-35mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 or occasionally  a 50mm f/1.8 prime) I compiled the image sequence using QuickTime Pro and exported from there.

All these attempts can be seen in the video above.

I haven’t totally abandoned time-lapse, but if I use it, I’d like it to be more than a gimmick.

Frank Carter

Before he was known as a frontman in a British band, before NME named him 2007’s “coolest man in rock ‘n’ roll” Frank worked at Frith Street Tattoo. He still does when he’s not touring.
He’s one of my favourite younger tattooers (although he started tattooing around the same time as me) and he’s one of the few people to start mopping floors and cleaning toilets then work his way to being an in-demand tattooer at Frith Street Tattoo.

I’m stoked that I got to interview Frank. Mostly because he’s been a semi-regular fixture at Frith Street but also because unlike many of the people I’ve interviewed and plan to interview for this project, he’s comfortable in front of the camera and is a great raconteur.
It’s a pleasure to have him be part of this project.

Follow his musical, painterly and tattoo adventures here:

Dante Di Massa

I’m not sure how to introduce Dante Di Massa (Danny) He’s the owner of Frith Street Tattoo. He’s very heavily tattooed and he deals in some of the finest tattoo supplies and equipment available. He’s much more than that – He’s a great friend and possibly the main reason Frith Street Tattoo is the way it is.

He can be an intimidating figure when you first meet him but soon you come to realise that he is indeed a ‘clown’ as almost everyone I’ve interviewed so far has attested to. Here’s a very small sample of the photos he’s made me take of him over the last 5 and a half years.

DSC06108 IMG_7696

Miles Chaperlin

Miles has been tattooing for over 20 years. He worked at Frith Street Tattoo a couple of times.
The first was from around 2004-2006. Then from 2010 until August 2012. He has been friends with Danny, owner of Frith Street Tattoo for over a decade.

Miles is the reason this project happened as soon as it did.

I had been planning a video project of some kind, since February 2012. Originally it was to be centred around Valerie Vargas and myself and the trials and tribulations of creating custom or bespoke tattoo work every day. Much of this work is large scale bodysuits or at least backpieces and sleeves.

Then Chris Grosso got in touch with Valerie.
I knew that whatever Chris did with Valerie’s Tattoo Age episodes, it would touch on some of the themes that I wanted to use and the Vice team would do a great job of it. Chris interviewed and filmed me for Valerie’s Tattoo Age, which I was and always will be proud to have been part of and I love the way it turned out. I also learned a lot from being on the ‘wrong’ side of the camera.
I didn’t want to make a second-rate version of Tattoo Age, so I expanded my scope to include the other tattooers at Frith Street. In turn, I found myself wanting to interview tattooers who sit in for a short time and to guest artists.

I was content to spend the rest of 2012 refining my ideas, themes and learning the myriad technical aspects of making a digital film: From cameras, lenses, white balance, lighting techniques, audio and microphone techniques, to digital file organisation and dealing with large media files, to finding a narrative in documentary footage, whether to use a dramatic or poetic narrative, etc, etc.

Then I discovered that Miles was leaving England at the end of August 2012.
I knew I had to interview him and capture what he had to say about the history of Frith Street Tattoo and the history of tattooing in the UK before he left.

I learned a great deal of technical information on this shoot. Actually, I didn’t learn much, I discovered that I knew nothing of interview techniques, Audio recording, lighting and remembering everything that needs to be remembered when setting up a shoot. I learned the technical information later.
So far, each shoot has thrown new problems and challenges at me, so I make notes and make the effort to remember to prepare for those challenges next time. Hopefully this effort will pay off with a watchable, enjoyable, informative portrait of the workplace I call home.

Jordan Teear

Jordan is one of the resident tattooers at Frith Street Tattoo.
He’s been with us since 2010.

In this clip Jordan talk about his role in the Frith Street family, how the people he works with influence his work ethic, his future at Frith Street and he shares a story about the first time he came to the shop and got tattooed.

I interviewed Jordan last August, in his home shortly after he returned from his ill-fated road-trip across the USA.
This is one of the first interviews I did. As a result, the lens I used on the wide shot proved that it wasn’t up to the task of shooting moving people in dimly lit rooms. For the next interview (Lee M. Knight) I used a higher quality lens that’s excellent in lower lighting conditions. I won’t be able to use the wide shots in the finished film as a result.

Lee M. Knight

We’ve known Lee since he started working for our friend Aaron Hewitt at Cult Classic Tattoo in Romford.

In August 2012 we asked him to work a few days each week at Frith Street.

Lee touched on some very interesting topics and added depth to the pre-prepared questions I had for him.
He has a very different view of our shop than someone like Chad. Lee has worked in the same shop for around five or six years.
We talked for over 90 minutes. It was great to chat with someone who is very passionate about tattooing and who feels the weight of Frith Street Tattoo’s history.

You can see some of his work here.

Thanks for watching,


Snippets of Vargas, October 21, 2012.

Here’s a clip made from short sections of an interview I did yesterday with Valerie, here in San Francisco.

This was a quick interview, in a hotel room away from home. I didn’t have space in my luggage to fit all my camera and audio gear next to my tattoo equipment. I used an on-board mic for the audio so it doesn’t sound as good as it could but I wanted to get the interview done right before a major convention rather than wait until we got home.
Among other things, we talked about how on earth we got to be invited to one of (in our opinion) the best tattoo conventions in the world, alongside most of our favourite tattooers and many of our tattoo heroes. and the difference between checking out a tattooer’s portfolio online and watching them make a great tattoo in the shittiest of conditions.

Thanks for checking it out.