Sergei Vasiliev‘s photographs of Russian Criminal Tattoos are part of a three part encyclopaedia/archive on the subject. Vasiliev photographed between 1989 and 1993 in prisons and reform settlements across Chelyabinsk, Nizhny Tagil, Perm and St. Petersburg.
Vasiliev’s portraits are accompanied by over 3,000 tattoo drawings made by Danzig Baldaev during his time as a prison guard between 1948 and 1986. Baldaev had supported of the KGB who used his illustrations to develop intelligence on the convict class.
Three volumes of the encyclopaedia have since been published by FUEL Designs:
” [The documentation of] Tattoos were Baldaev‘s gateway into a secret world in which he acted as ethnographer, recording the rituals of a closed society. The icons and tribal languages he documented are artful, distasteful, sexually explicit and provocative, reflecting as they do the lives and traditions of convicts.”
“The accompanying photographs by Sergei Vasiliev act as an important counterpart to Baldaev’s drawings, providing photographic evidence of their authenticity. [...] In these images the nameless bodies of criminals act as both a text and mirror, reflecting and preserving the ever-changing folklore of the Russian criminal underworld.”
Baldaev’s drawings and Vasiliev’s portraits are currently being exhibited at 4 Wilkes Street, London E1 6QF (30 October to 28 November 2010).
Found via Eight:48.com
I’ve posted before about prison tattoos:
Prison Tattoos and the Photographers’ Intrigue
Klaus Pichler: Central European Prison Tattoos, Taxidermy and Beguiling Portraits of Odessans
Detached, formaldehyde-soaked, preserved, studied: The tattooed skin of Polish prisoners
Bob Gumpert on Foto8, on Prison Tattoo Codes
Sergei Vasiliev was born in 1937 in Chelyabinsk, Russia. After graduating from the MVD Academy, Moscow, he became a staff photographer for the newspaper ‘Vecherny Chelyabinsk’, where he has worked for the past thirty years. he has received many honours including International Master of Press Photography from the International Organization of Photo Journalists (Prague, 1985), Honoured Worker of Arts of Russia, and the Golden Eye Prize. His work has been exhibited internationally and is held in numerous museums’ collections. He is author of more than twenty books, including ‘Russian Beauty’, (1996) and ‘Zonen’, (1994).