In my last column, I featured the people who were our Convention Coordinators (my right hand crew) Bill Mokry, Jack Adams, Joeri D’Hondt and Donna Grau (my daughter) and Don Makofske (my husband) who helped with the photography and videography of the 39 NTA Conventions.
We also needed photographers and videographers to record the history of the NTA and the conventions and all the tattoos and all the winners, etc. etc. and again we had the best from start to finish. We needed photos of the contestants for the newsletters and the videos for prosperity and the history of the NTA.
And so… at this time I would like to continue with their stories as they too were very important people to the NTA Conventions. I had originally included them along with the afore mentioned people but my column ran too long. So, with that said, here are the NTA Photographers and Videographers and how they got involved with the NTA.
Gene Houghton – NTA Videographer
August 11, 1932 – August 24, 2018
Since Gene is no longer with us, I will give my version of how Gene became our videographer.
Gene was a member of the NTA from the 1979-1980 year until his death and he attended
most of the NTA Conventions. He used to help at the registration desks and man the doors in the beginning. He started helping with the videoing as soon as we started taping some of the events at the conventions, but then, in 1996, he took over doing the taping of the conventions. Gene continued to do so until his health started to bother him, and he couldn’t attend the conventions anymore.
Gene loved doing that for us and he not only videoed the contests on Friday afternoon but he also videoed the Welcome Party on Thursday evening and set up the video camera on a small stage that night so that people could start previewing their tattoos. He also videoed the awards ceremony and of course the Roasts of one of our peers on Sunday evening. He used to joke that he had the best seat in the house when filming because we put him up on a riser, so he had a clear view of what he was taping at all times.
Gene used to ask me to remind him when his dues were due so he wouldn’t lose his spot in the NTA so I would usually email him end of May or beginning of June each year about the dues being due July 1st and also just a little note besides catching up on things and to see how he was doing. He’d respond with a Thank You for the reminder and write about things that he’d been doing since the convention. My biggest regret is that after the last NTA convention in April 2018 and taking care of the last of my job for the NTA I didn’t email Him to remind him about his dues being due soon because there was not going to be any more NTA dues for me to collect. And so, I figured I would email him later as there was no hurry to email him now, I could wait till I got done with most of the closing out of the NTA things. I had plenty of time to email Gene now. That was a big mistake on my part because when I finally said OK let me email Gene and find out how he’s doing it was too late – I received an email from his wife, saying he has passed away a few days after his 86 birthday in their summer home on Lake Tahoe. Never got to say a final THANK YOU to him for taking all those videos for us for all those years.
Gene wasn’t a tattooer, but he was a big Enthusiast of tattoos His profession was that of a college professor for years. One of the things I remember most about Gene is his backpiece – it consisted of several hot air balloons. He made me laugh a couple of times as when he showed this piece it depended on whether or not he had dieted before the convention as when he did not the balloons where very full and when he had dieted the balloons did not appear to be as inflated as usual. 😊 Gene was definitely a great member of the NTA family and is still missed by those of us who got to know him.
Gene was not the only one who did videos for us there were a few others too but, they only did it a couple of conventions each. Warren Henderson did it a few years and then Don Eakers did it a few years with Gene assisting him and then Gene took over completely in 1996. And my Don (Makofske) took over when Gene had to bow out due to his health.
My heartfelt THANKS to all of our videographers for all the history they got on tape for us over the 39 NTA Conventions.
And now the NTA Photographers:
I was born in 1951. At about 5 years old I had a fascination for a star tattooed on Grandpa's left hand. My Uncle Harold also had bluebirds on each shoulder. At age 15, I found Tatts Thomas in Kenosha, WI. He put an eagle on my shoulder. The following year, Greg May tattooed me a couple times. Then Doc King of Rockford, IL. I think Buddy Mott at Dale Grande's (Chicago) tattooed me around 1977. In 1987 I saw some of my friends with some custom work. I was introduced to Mr. Max and Ray Youngman of Downers Grove Tattoo. They both tattooed me and also introduced me to NTA. I found out that there were other people that shared my passion for tattoos. They were my sponsors when I joined in 1987.
My 1st convention was Orlando in 1988. I always took many photos for my personal collection. When NTA had their first cruise in 1993 to Nassau & the Freeport, Richard Todd was not able to make it for photos. So, I was asked if I could help out with pictures. I did. And after that, I would assist Billy Tinney or Richard Todd with the photo shoots of the contests at the future conventions. I also did many miscellaneous photos during convention. After a short while, it was no longer about the pics of tattoos, but about photos of the people, of the couples and of their families. I watched these families grow over all the years. Some of the children and grandchildren also learning the craft. Some tattooers have told me that the only pics they have of their families on their walls are the ones that I took and shared with them. I even took some photos at the 2000 San Antonio Convention (I was 4 months into Hep-C treatment of 20 mcg of interferon daily for 500 days.) I was very ill, but that Dr at Loyola Univ had an 86% cure rate in 1999. I get checked each year and have been negative since 2000. I only missed one convention (Carolinas), as I had just finished with prostate surgery. My wife Linda always traveled with me and eventually it became a family vacation for my daughter Deanna, son-in-law Dino and Granddaughter’s Luciana and Anabella. I love my tattoo family and through the NTA saw many parts of the country and made many great friends. Eventually I was tattooed by Walt Dailey, Sailor Moses, Bald Bill Henshaw, Jack Rudy, Brian Everett. My favorite memories are hanging out with everyone late into the night after all the days’ activities were finished. And the best place for that seemed to be at the Doubletree hotel in Orlando where we finished up our last several years. Thanks for the memories NTA!
And now Flo’s version 😊
Johnny took a lot of photos at the conventions even before he became one of our “Official NTA Photographers” along with Richard Todd and Billy Tinney. He gave me a lot of the ones he took just walking around during the show and I used them in the convention magazines as well. It was nice to show the people working in the booths and also the conventioneers in casual shots having fun as well.
And when I asked him if he would be willing to be our photographer on the NTA’s first cruise in 1993 he said Yes! I was so glad he agreed, and he has been helping with the photography ever since. If I needed photos of someone during the year all I had to do was give him a call and he’d get them to me right away.
In 2007 I also asked Johnny if he would please take photos of every display entry so we could at least include the winning ones in the convention newsletters as well - as a lot of people would ask me what sheet won. Since no one’s names were allowed on the front side of the entry no one knew who did what sheet and I would just read the name of person whose sheet had won the Black & White Design Sheet contest from the list we had of entries – sheet number 1 was by XXX, sheet number 2 was by YYY and sheet number 3 was by ZZZ, and so on with each display contest we had. But still, we didn’t know what sheet won as I was just given the name to read. So with Johnny taking the photos of each entry it really helped as when we got to the office and were doing the display contests we just compared the number to the name next to it on the master list and then would use that photo in the convention issue. We got so many compliments on doing that, that we kept doing it from then on.
And, Johnny’s candid shots of the conventioneers really helped to make the convention issue better too – everyone was anxious to see if they could find themselves somewhere in the issue as well - as not everyone entered the contests. Johnny also took shots of all the kids and we could see them all growing up in front of us year and after year.
The following is how it all came together for me and the NTA.
Born in Los Angeles, Richard is recognized internationally as one of the world's premier Tattoo photographers. He was first introduced to the world of tattoo by the late Arnold Ruben in 1987 at the San Diego National Tattoo Associations Convention while working on a book for the Museum of Cultural History entitled The Marks of Civilization. At the convention Richard was invited by the board of the National Tattoo Association to be their photographer and currently continues to hold that volunteer position.
In the early 90s he was the main photographer at International Tattoo Art Magazine. His images of people wearing magnificent art by some of the best tattoo artists from around the globe have also appeared in other magazines such as Tattoo Life and Skin and Ink. His photographs continue to appear in many publications worldwide and can be found in many museum collections in America, Europe, and Asia. There have only been a few photographers to take part in this great art form and have those images consistently appear in magazines. Therefore, it is my assumption that due to these photographs appearing in magazines around the globe, myself along with Billy Tinney, Robert Butcher and Diane Mansfield have helped elevate the tattoo industry as it continues to grow today. Respectful photography works!
Thanks for your story Richard – and now here is my (Flo’s) version hahaha
I can’t dispute any of the above because I don’t know any different 😊😊 All kidding aside, Richard is a renowned photographer the world over for sure. I did not know him until that San Diego convention of the NTA’s where he offered to do the photography for us too as he was there to photograph tattoos for the book he mentioned above and he would gladly give us those photos for our newsletter as well. Well…. Hell…. Why not?!!!! And from then on, he continued to photograph all the contestants and the winners for us for the convention issues.
Richard was also always there if I needed a photo of someone for the newsletters if I was doing an article on them. We were so lucky that Arnold Rubin was doing that book and came to our San Diego Convention and brought Richard along as his photographer as that is how Richard became one of our “Official” NTA Photographers and part of the NTA Family too.
This is exactly: In His Own Words…
HERE WE GO:
I started as a country boy on farm in La. -in coveralls barefoot plowin' with mule at 5.
(letter from g'ma proves it) Had to hunt squirrels, rabbits & such or we only ate chicken as our daily meat.
Moved to big city of S'port & Bossier to live with mom. Bout '61, got bottle India ink, wrapped thread round needles & started tattooin'. Put girlfriends name on hand - swole up pretty good too. Sum reason I liked "LINDA’S" This one wuz #7 & later married #11- LOL.
At 16 yrs (‘63) went to La. state fair & pd. $5 for tat of snake around skull from a "Carney". All went good with my motorcycles & I wuz cool. Hell, if we caught u after school smokin Marlboros & didn't have tattoo - u got ur ass kicked. We dressed the part fore Fonzie ever thought bout cool. I'd b in trouble now - had rebel flag on back of my leather jacket.
Went thru biker stage, mostly in Houston, with Kodak Instamatic on ma wrist in late 60's. Traded sawed off shotgun for 35 mm with broken meter. Wore out lotta film lookin at film boxes showin sun & shade diagrams fer guides (ya'll remember dat?) In '72 did shoot of a party & sent to Easyriders’ & was published in early '73. Did cover for 'em of biker with full back piece tattoo (Mr. Tramp). This is first ever published worldwide cover I know of such.
In Jan.'76 Dave Yurkew ask me to be his staff photog for the First World Tattoo Convention at the Holiday Inn in Houston. There I met Lyle, Marty Holcombe, Peter Poulos, The Great Elizabeth & other notables of the tattoo world. Houston Chronicle had a Sunday magazine in it & ran a big story & tattoo cover of it as well.
Covered another show Dave had cpl yrs later here where I set up studio & did portraits.
Went to Peter's shop in Denver & did same with him & his girls.
1980 Easyriders’ published first magazine ever titled "TATTOO" used lots of my images from the conventions & Peter's shop. This really got me rollin for more. Randy Adams & Crazy Ace told me they could try git me access to the exclusive NTA convention.
Rented room at Mclean Va. hotel for '82 NTA conv. & set up lil studio. Marilyn Chambers had got me hired by "CLUB" magazine - men's mag outta England. Had idea for story on Tattoos for them too. I offered folks 2 choices - shoot for biker mags or Men's mag for a feature called "TATTOO ART".
Bill Mokry was one of my stars of that layout & it turned out great as promised. I started goin to many NTA events - lost track of "em-but think covered most. In early 90's as Photo Editor my boss made me offer to be Editor in Chief of Tattoo mag, then sold in 7 languages & over 40 countries. Told him I wuz a photographer & he said - either ur my editor or u better git busy trainin urself a new boss. Oh well - I took da job - LOL.
At NTA I would cover event & set studio shoots - but was never allowed backstage during contestants shoots.
My wife Tammy was an escort but could not git me access to the studio or even backstage. My break came when Todd could not make it one yr. & I got the job for them. Flo liked my work & we both became her studio photogs - side by side setups.
Finally in 2016 ended up with bad infection that developed into flesh eatin bacteria. Spent almost 6 months in Memphis hospital & rehab. Luckily, I lost only 4 toes - but my balance is still shot today. I want to thank Gill Montie for the "go fund me" he set up & all the wonderful folks that pitched in to help keep me afloat. As well as Brian the boss of the NTA Col Todd's Hardship fund for the help. From the bottom of my heart I am eternally grateful & will never forget this. I love u like brothers & sisters.
Well the rest is history & all good things come to end. Last yr. the Boss sold the company & the last 2 mags left – Easyriders’ & Tattoo. After doin over a million miles in my motor homes & over a million miles on planes I guess I'm slowin' down & aproachin' the 4th quarter.
New idiot damn Canadian Yankee owners have better ideas for magazines to become catalogs of ER products. (no offense ma Canada friends) Said they gettin rid of all the "TRASH" & after my 48 yrs. as Senior Photographer for the world’s best biker & tattoo mags, they threw ALL OF US UNDER THE BUS.
In closin (ya'll had nough yet?) I want to tell u that the friends & artists I've met in the tattoo world are the best of the best hands down period. Friends like family & they don't come no better than ya'll. Thanks for lettin this old "TRASH” photog be part of ur history & thank u fer bein part of mine. Hope to see ya'll again .
PS: ya'll lucky I quit tattooin & took up with cameras. LOL
And now here is my version: 😊😊
When I first received Billy’s story and read it - I could actually picture him standing right here with me and it made me smile – actually felt like we were at an NTA reunion/convention. I planned on using it exactly how he wrote it but asked him to make sure. And he said – yes darlin, the way I rote it. And I agreed because it wouldn’t be Billy’s story if I changed darlin to darling because that’s not how Billy says it 😊 It would be like taking the drawl out of Sunshine’s speech. It would be a sin to do so to either of them 😊😊
Like Billy said he did attend most of the NTA conventions since 1982. And, yes he wasn’t allowed backstage with the contestants as there were other photographers that came as well and none of them except our official photographers, at the time, were allowed backstage – It would have been too much of a hassle to have 4 or 5 photographers from different publications all trying to get photos and us trying to get the contestants lined up to go out on stage. Back then we had at least 75-100 people in each contest and we had contestants for at least two categories backstage at the same time. However, Billy was always welcome at the conventions and always shared his photos with us as well.
In 2000 Richard could not make the NTA San Antonio Convention and so I thought we were in trouble - because - Johnny was in charge of photographing all the display table contests so then he couldn’t also be backstage photographing the contestants at the same time. So now, we needed an “Official” NTA photographer. Billy said he would be more than happy to help us out and volunteered to do it for us this year. So when Richard could not make San Antonio - we actually gained another fantastic photographer for the NTA. In fact, it worked out so well that we decided to make him one of our “Official” NTA Photographers too. From that time on I made sure we had two photo booths backstage. One for Richard and one for Billy. So, between Richard & Billy taking all the contests and the winners I’d choose which photo I thought would look best in the convention issues. It was great because letting them know this I knew I’d get fantastic photos as each wanted me to choose theirs so they made sure they got the best pictures possible 😊😊 It also meant if one of them missed contestant X the other one would have X’s photo so very seldom were we missing anyone’s photo. So that worked great too. Thank You Billy for being part of our NTA Family.
And so, to those three guys who became our “Official” NTA Photographers at the NTA Conventions, I say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for giving us sooooo many wonderful photos to remember and document every one of the 39 NTA conventions.
I know each time I look through a convention issue and see all the great tattoos shown and all the wonderful people that attended them – it brings back such great memories to me. It is because of these three guys who made sure we got great photos of not only the contest tattoos and other art work but also of all the people that I and all of you that attended were lucky enough to have met over the 39 NTA Conventions. Many of them are gone now but the convention issues bring them all back to me as I go through them from time to time. Gosh how I miss you all – but and here’s the key word BUT…. I got to know most all of you – the only ones I missed meeting are those who were not fortunate to be able to come to any of the conventions. Wish you could have come to at least one of the conventions to have met some of the members that did and… so I could have gotten to meet you too.
In closing, I’d like to add:
I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it a million times more. The NTA conventions were never put on by one person, not even 2 people or 3 or 4. You need lots of people to cover all the jobs there are to run a convention like the NTA did. But… you do need to have some jobs that are more important than others – this is true in any organization – but even more true when running a convention. You have to tell everyone where to go – That was my job – I got to tell you all where to go 😊😊 sometimes even under my breath I got to tell a few of you really where to go 😊😊 But all kidding aside, my telling you where to go was only the beginning of it.. We needed to have security throughout the convention, and we needed people to fill that position and in turn they would get others to help them because they too could not be in all places at all times. So yes, - we had to have Security Directors and we had the best from start to finish. Then I needed people to be watching over the registrations throughout the whole convention and someone to sleep in the tattoo room on Saturday night and also be in charge of the 50/50 raffles and they in turn had to get people to help them in those jobs too. Again, we had the best of the best from start to finish. And so, over the years the NTA ran like a well-oiled machine of volunteers.
And once again, I’d like to say, everyone who volunteered at the NTA conventions did just that – they volunteered – they were not paid for their services – We all did it for love of the Tattoo Profession and the NTA Family. Doesn’t get any better than that!
In my next column I am going to continue with the NTA history but I am not going to say what it will be on yet – Yes I do know what it will be on but I’m not telling you now – you’ll just have to wait and see – this is my July - August column [September/October Issue as this article was broken in two --Ed.] – my next column should be out sometime in October as it will be for November & December. Always remember to check the NTA Cruisers Website from time to time to get info on any news on upcoming events or Featured Studios and or Featured Artists. Check for some old-time photos from the past as well and updates on when & where we hope to get to see you again. Red is working on finding places where we can meet and hold our NTA Cruisers Family Reunions and if you have a good suggestion - don’t forget to let him know.
Hoping this pandemic will be over soon – stay safe, healthy, and SANE – I know this not being able to see family and friends right now is driving me crazy hahaha I’m a people person so this sucks… Love yas and thanks for stopping by my column. If you need to get in touch with me about anything in my column my email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
For all other inquiries contact the NTA Cruisers' home office. Their number is 407-319-0018 or email them at: email@example.com.
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