John “Logger” Bridges, head piercer at Infinite Body Piercing on 4th Street in Philadelphia, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, also owns Ashtanga Yoga School with his business and romantic partner, Elizabeth Crozier.
But Logger, who has done piercing stints in Arizona, California, and Oregon, wasn’t always so successful.
“Part of what piercing did for me was it took someone who was insecure and overweight and not sure of their place in the world and not particularly adept socially, and it helped me be all those things,” he said. “And I want to present the person that I am to other people in the hopes that it will make them want to have that journey as well.”
He got the nickname “Logger” because he grew up in a lower-middle class family in Seattle, who shopped at thrift stores a lot.
“I wore a lot of flannel,” said Logger, laughing, recalling the inception of his moniker among all those evergreens in a state where the logging business was booming.
Attending church as a child, he sought out some kind of “real” spirituality. Logger did experiment with psychedelics in high school. But it was when he saw the book “Modern Primitives” and began to try ritual-based piercing that Logger thought he might be on to a “way to reach a different state.”
On the second page of “Modern Primitives,” known as the “bible of the tattooing piercing underground,” is a photograph of a man being suspended from hooks by his nipples.
“I was like, ‘Oh man. I really have to do that, like hanging from hooks,’” Logger, 34, said. He met a piercer who did this kind of work and started to try it.
“Something I learned through this [hanging from hooks by his nipples] is that intention matters,” Logger said. “Intention matters because it is what changes the way that you interact with the world physically. If you are going to put a couple of hooks and be lifted on the ground, it’s the same thing if you’re going to get your nose pierced: try and relax; be calm; be mindful; try and be conscious of what’s happening inside you, and what’s happening outside you, and where that line is.”
As important as intention is, so is connection with his clients, even if brief, Logger believes.
“There’s something to be said about having a connection with a person for a short period of time where you want a piercing, you want something, and they’re going to give it to you, and you’re maybe going to hold hands and walk through that fire together,” Logger said. “That’s different than, ‘Let me sell you this beautiful piece of jewelry.’ That has its place too, but it’s not the crux of the whole thing.”
Logger is one of three children, though originally there were four. His younger brother died at 3-days-old from E-coli. “I don’t think my mother ever recovered from that.” But his parents did go on to have two girls, much younger than Logger.
“I would rather have a 30-something-year-old’s penis in my hand than a 20-something-year-old’s ear in my hand. It’s nice to talk to someone who’s lived a little bit.”– John “Logger” Bridges of Infinite Body Piercing
His father worked as a revenue agent for the Internal Revenue Service for 34 years, and his mother, a “conservative liberal,” is now a family advocate for disadvantaged students at an elementary school in Seattle.
And though his parents are happy that he is successful and independent, they don’t approve of Logger’s choice of profession, he said.
Logger played in punk bands from a young age and was trained in classical music. But he burned out. At just about that time, he discovered ritual-based piercing, having already snuck into an underground shop at 15 to have his penis pierced and then finally had his ears first pierced at 18 when he no longer needed his mother’s permission.
Now he is in the business of piercing other people’s noses, cheeks, ears, and genitals – a specialty Infinite is known for. The most common female genital piercings are “triangles” and vertical hood piercings, which provide the most sensation, and “Prince Alberts’” on the penis.
Learning genital piercing was “very nerve-wracking,” said Logger, who estimates that he’s done at least several hundred Prince Alberts throughout his career and lately about two a week at Infinite.
“I like doing genital piercings,” Logger said. “The experience is automatically intimate … I would rather have a 30-something-year-old’s penis in my hand than a 20-something-year-old’s ear in my hand. It’s nice to talk to someone who’s lived a little bit.”
But he also really enjoys cultivating people’s ear piercings, helping them decide how to place a trio to the best effect or to design the second ear when someone comes in with one ear already pierced, Logger said.
On a recent afternoon at Infinite, Logger was doing mostly nostril piercings.
Alison Rutherford, 37, was there for a nostril and septum piercing. This was the third time she was having these piercings done, but as a contractor, she kept having to take out her jewelry and losing it. “I’m going to get a pouch,” she said.
“Let me grab your gum from you,” Logger said, extending a latex-gloved hand. “I pierce penises for a living. I think I can handle your gum.”
But Rutherford sucked in hard and held her breath, her face contracted in pain, as Logger pulled the septum needle through, snapping the new jewelry into place.
“Oh! I love it!” Rutherford exclaimed examining her new nostril and septum piercings in the mirror.
Kate Tanita, 36, sat on a bench in the Infinite waiting room. She had only single ear piercings but had been thinking about getting a nostril piercing for a long time. That day, she had had brunch in Center City with a friend and suddenly decided to hit up Infinite on her way home.
Logger made a dot with a marker on her nose where he thought the piercing might go. “Too far back, and the piercing makes your nose look really big,” he said.
When he pulled the needle through, Tanita, too, sucked air, comparing it to “stubbing your toe.”
“But on your nose,” Logger said.
Jade Schweitzer, 21, who works behind the counter at Infinite and has been apprenticing under Logger for the past year, said that piercing has always been something that she has been interested in.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s going to be worth it,” Schweitzer, who wears 15 piercings but has had a total of 21, said about her apprenticeship.
Logger estimates that he has been pierced more than 1,000 times, including his ritualistic encounters, though he has only 25 permanent ones. When asked how many tattoos he has, Logger answers, “One big one.”
His earlobes hang down from large-gauge, weighted piercings he has had.
“Piercers are not painters,” Logger said. “We don’t paint pictures. But there’s a whole art to the way paintings get hung on the wall. That’s what we do.”