In 1972 I met Thom deVita as he was being tattooed by Ed Hardy in an apartment in Manhattan. Tattooing was illegal in NYC then. I had never met anyone like him before. He was almost eighty percent tattooed, had a shaved head, and wore many earrings. His persona reflected his originality. I knew immediately that I wanted to photograph him. He was the perfect subject to photograph and our friendship developed in the next forty-six years.
When I met Thom he lived on the Lower East side in NYC. In the 1990s he moved to a house in Newburgh, NY. His art was his life force. Everything around him reflected his creativity. His places were decorated with hundreds of drawings, paintings, assemblages and found objects all over the walls and had the feeling of an art museum. He painted his floors with tribal designs.
deVita began tattooing in the 1960s after it became illegal to do in NYC. He was a visionary artist who was a forerunner of modern tattooing. He was inspirational to tattoo artists. His designs were original and flowed on the body. He was an untrained artist who produced a large body of original drawings and assemblages that are hard to categorize but were acclaimed by many artists and collectors.
Some of my photographs are seen in Vice's five-part Tattoo Age series, Thom deVita. They were also in the New York Historical Museum's exhibition, Tattooed New York and are in the book, deVita Unauthorized, Hardy Marks Publications, San Francisco, California.