Interview with Apro Lee

Since Seoul-based tattooer Apro Lee completed his first guest spot at East River Tattoo last April, his tattoos–contorted, demonic tigers and cartoonish, almost mocking, magpies in particular–have left a lasting impression. With thick, bold lines, expansive stippling, and graphic dotted, slashed, and scratched textures, all his tattoos have a sense of strength and deliberateness that feels appropriate to their place of origin. After all, tattooing is still very much illegal in Seoul, and serious tattooers are still actively and passionately fighting to practice their craft without persecution. We recently caught up with Apro to talk about his background, philanthropy the rough tattoo scene in Seoul.


When did you start tattooing? Do you have a background in art?

I started tattooing in Seoul, Korea in 2006. I don’t have any background in art, but as far as I can remember, I was drawing all the time. I had always wanted to be a cartoonist when I was little.


I know tattooing is still illegal in South Korea. How does that affect the tattoo scene there? How does the tattoo scene in Seoul compare to other cities you have travelled to?

Yes, tattooing in South Korea is still illegal. There is this strange law that only doctors can tattoo, which is very frustrating. But compared to the days I began about 10 years ago, circumstances and regulations are way better. Back then, there were no [tattoo] masters or [sites like] YouTube that could teach us, nor the proper tattoo equipment dealers. A single needle was $10, so I had to make needles, liners, magnums, etc. every time I tattooed. Can you imagine?

Things are different now, but it still has to stay private and underground like in my studio. The scene here is very territorial [...]


Start your week off by by feasting your eyes upon “SatoMasochism” by the divine Peter Sato created for the January edition of Penthouse in 1980. Eighties futurism and lesbian foot fetishsim in the smoothest airbrushing effects don’t really get better than this selection of illustrations. The headless glamour of these anonymous women floating in some strange erotic space ‘evokes the electricity of desire in women flirting with pain’. These illustrations alone are really exceptional but then paired with quotes from Aleister Crowley and Apollinaire about the power and control dynamic of S&M pushes them over the edge of brilliance.


Hans Bellmer and his Femme-Enfant

“And the Lord hath smitten him and delivered him into a woman’s hand” Apocrypha: Book of Judith, Chapter 13

An erotic obsession cloaked Hans Bellmer (1902-1975) the German painter, sculptor and photographer. His want for the corruption of innocence was all but matched by the writings of De Sade and Von Sacher-Masoch and in similar vein; his manufacture of sadism also produced a victor and a victim. Inspired by David Ives and Roman Polanski’s invigorating take on ‘Venus in Fur’, similarities can be found in Bellmer’s work in the role play between director/actor and dominated/submissive created in the film. He constructed figures of a haunting fragmented femininity and an anatomical swelling of unfamiliarity. He became the director of his own fantasies, through which the distortion and manipulation of the body was wholly dominated by his hand.

Bellmer’s infamous first collection of images, ‘La Poupee’, reveals to the observer the sensuality and vulnerability of a mutilated form. One single doll; an assemblage of manipulation. He challenged the unconscious fears and desires of man-made physical alterations and brought to attention a sinister attraction for the adolescence. The first set of images is accompanied by a short text ‘Memories of the Doll Theme’, which demonstrates the inner workings of the dolls and their construction. Flowers, linen and mary-jane shoes continue the order of the girl erotic, situating the memory of youth as an integral layer to the experience of viewing. The dismembered body is a sexualised tool, allowing erogenous zones to be multiplied by sight. A masochistic subtext explores both the mastery of his hand and the destructive nature of his wishes. A production of fear in order to protect oneself from what is feared the most, fragmentation and [...]

Ten Questions: Rich Hardy

Recently relocated to Sydney via London, Rich Hardy has carved out a name for himself with his bold take on classic Western tattoo imagery. While so-called “traditional” tattooing is currently experiencing an ongoing popularity, with imagery and application techniques seemingly being continually regurgitated, Hardy constantly strives to push boundaries while remaining firmly rooted in both historic imagery and ideologies. Continuing our “Ten Questions” interview series, we caught up with Hardy to chat about his thoughts on tattooing among a number of other things. To see more of Rich’s work, be sure to check out his Instragram @rich_hardy.

To begin, could you please introduce yourself, where you are from and how you got in to tattooing?

My name is Rich Hardy, and I’m originally from a small town in Hertfordshire, which is around 45 minutes north of London. I now live in Sydney, Australia for the time being. I got in to tattooing pretty randomly, I didn’t really even think about being a tattooer until I got asked if I wanted to learn. I was getting tattooed fairly regularly in a small street shop in West London and then one day was asked if I wanted to apprentice, I started a few days later. I wasn’t really doing anything with my life, kinda drifting and just jumping from one shitty job to the next. It was a pretty tough time but I am grateful that I was treated like shit. It made me appreciate things a lot more and work harder, even when it came to being made to paint the outside toilet floor light grey in the freezing English winter! Unfortunately, me and my master no longer speak but I am eternally grateful for the opportunity he gave me to [...]

The 83 year old man and his Cauliflower Ear modification


A couple of weeks ago Yann Brenyak was telling me about possibly one of the most bizarre modifications that I’ve heard of to date. The job of a body modifier is obviously one where you interact with a vast variety of the human population all wanting to alter their bodies for a broad variety of reasons, so its no surprise that sometimes one story might surprise you more than others.

Most of the modification community who get altered however often share a similar lifestyle or enjoy a notion to look subversive. However this modification which Yann was asked to perform is one where I still can’t really get my head around.

This mystery man who has asked to remain anonymous is a well spoken gentleman of 82 years of age living in South London. He found Yann’s website and contacted him about modifying his ear to replicate the appearance of a cauliflower ear.

In my opinion a cauliflower ear is one of the most uncomfortable looking injuries in existent, even verging on the grotesque. Most commonly it exists as the aftermath of a boxing, martial arts or rugby injury where the cartilage of the ear explodes and essentially makes the ear look totally deformed. Just looking at a cauliflower ears produces a feeling of nausea in me.

So why would a totally non modified, non tattooed, rather softly spoken, conservative English man in his 80s decide to undergo a painful procedure to induce the notion of an injury which does’t actually exist?

I went to Yann’s studio in Hackney Wick while the gentleman was having his ear cast and did a short interview with him to find out why he was going through with this modification.

So what are you getting done?

I’m getting my [...]

Elegance Bratton’s Bound by Night

Documenting beautiful images created with a balance of both fascinating photographic works and as a record of a contemporary subculture currently existing in New York – Bound by Night was recently created by Elegance Bratton and published through Wild Life press.

Twenty three years on from Jennie Livingston’s seminal documentary Paris is Burning which followed young LGBT African American and Hispanic individuals recreate spaces to feel at home within outside of their biological families and through the space of the ballroom; Bratton shows the rest of the world that this culture hasn’t disappeared but simply adapted to our current time.

Unfortunately homophobia, racism and transphobia haven’t been eradicated in the last two decades and what is possibly more upsetting is in Bratton’s introduction where he explains to the reader that since the late 80s the AIDS epidemic has never really slowed down for this community and is still spreading to the most vulnerable at a ferocious rate.

Many of the individuals shot in this book fall in to the subcategories of the ballroom competitions of Femme Queen, Butch Queen, Sex Sirens, Thugs, Voguers, Pretty Boys and so on which are all perfectly explained to us in the introduction.

However much hardship the individuals in this book have experienced, the elements of transformation that fashion and dance offer these young people creates a space of celebration and empowerment. Bratton also presents us with a space which is actually very private and its in own way quite exclusive, many of our own experiences of this culture exist through spectating its re-appropriation through pop culture.

It is so rare to see images where notions of fashion are explored without a barrier of unattainability or exclusivity manifesting themselves, rather Bratton’s images show us an area of hope [...]

A review of Bruce La Bruce’s Gerontophilia


Mentioned on Sang Bleu over a year ago, Bruce La Bruce’s latest film, Gerontophilia, premiered at the Venice Film Festival. The film follows Lake, an 18-year-old man whose brief stint working at Coup de Coeur nursing home helps uncover his underlying sexual fetish.  As Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie), begins to discover his sexual attraction to the elderly, he strikes up a romantic relationship with one of the geriatric men he cares for, the 81-year-old Mr. Melvyn Peabody (Walter Borden).

Gerontophilia is, in general terms, a sexual preference for the elderly, drawn from the Greek words geron (“old man/woman”) and phillie (“love”). A quick scour of the internet finds many forums dedicated to self-identified “gerontophiles,” though the fetish, like all sexual preferences, varies in terms of extremity and stipulation. First identified in psychoanalytical literature by Robert Von Kraft-Ebbing, and vaguely deemed as an “erotic age orientation,” gerontophilia, like much of the sexual theory during the early 1900s, was sometimes linked to an Oepidus complex. Recent studies surrounding the history, causes and practices of the fetish (which seem sparse compared to others), are less defined in their conclusions, possibly due to differing definitions amoung gerontophiles themselves. For example, our understandings of age depend not only on our  personal histories but societal views of what is “elderly” and what is “young,” creating loopholes in what the mainstream may imagine as gerontophilic. Though the opinion of most involved in the online community is that a gerontophile is sexually aroused and romantically interested in those who are much older than him or her, with the object of affection often in the 65+ age range.  Wrinkles, sagging skin and grey or white hair are physical attributes which are found to be sexually stimulating to most gerontophiles. In this [...]