Tattoo documentaries let you get an inside look at the stories of individual artists or learn more about a certain tattoo style.As an aspiring tattoo artist, it’s important to learn everything you can about tattoo history, techniques, trends, and prominent artists. While shows like LA Ink and Ink Master are great looks into the world of tattooing, there are plenty of other interesting documentaries out there.
In this article, we’ll give our recommendations for the best tattoo documentaries about various aspects of the industry:
The Last Kalinga Tattoo Artist, Whang Od
Directed by Phillip Abresch in 2016, this documentary covers Whang Od Oggay, an elderly tattoo artist in Kalinga, a village in the Phillippines that is very hard to reach. Whang Od is described as the oldest and last tattoo artist in Kalinga who has been tattooing warriors for her whole life.
Whang-Od uses a rice stalk to stamp the pattern into the body, and while her tattoos were traditionally done to honor those who protected their village, she now practices her tattoos for tourists.
This tattoo documentary follows two men who go to be tattooed by Whang Od and learn about her tradition. The documentary is 26 minutes long and can be found on YouTube.
Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry: The Life of Norman K. Collins
This tattoo documentary looks at the history of tattoos in America and focuses on the famous tattoo personality Sailor Jerry. It was written and directed by Erich Weiss and features interviews with artists influenced by Sailor Jerry including Don Ed Hardy, Michael Malone, Zeke Owen, Lyle Tuttle, Philadelphia Eddie Funk, Bob Roberts and Joe Boyle.This documentary will explore Sailor Jerry’s story, tattoo art, worldview, connection to Japan, and his impact on society.
Ed Hardy: The Godfather of Modern Tattooing
This film is directed by Christpher Grosso and follows San Francisco tattoo artist Ed Hardy.Hardy was influenced by Sailor Jerry and used his love of Japanese tattooing to bring the world’s most historic tattooing styles into a new wave of modern tattoo design.
The Sacred Tattoos of Thailand
The Sacred Tattoos of Thailand, produced by Kit Chung, dives into Sak Yant, a traditional Buddhist tattoo thought to give mystical powers to the person being tattooed. The tattoos are done in the traditional stick-and-poke style and are very important to Thai Buddhist culture.
This documentary teaches about the art of Sak Yant including who gives the tattoos, who receives them, and how you must behave to inherit the powers of the tattoo. Footage of the traditional ceremony can be seen in the film.
Tattoo Nation follows tattoo pioneers Charlie Cartwright, Jack Rudy, and Freddy Negrete, and looks at how they helped tattoos gain mainstream popularity.
The film tells the story of how Cartwright and Rudy opened a tattoo parlor in East Los Angeles in 1975 and hired Freddy Negrete, who revolutionized tattooing in the Chicano community.
This documentary is narrated by Corey Miller from LA Ink and includes interviews with tattooed celebrities like Danny Trejo and Travis Barker.
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Understanding tattoo history is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist.
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