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It seems like I’ve been saying a lot on prison tattoos (here and here) recently … which is true, but it’s not even an area of keen interest for me. Maybe this will be the last one, or maybe not, depending on what friends and photographers continue to produce.

I have expressed reservations about photographing prison tattoos because inevitably the images may fail to penetrate the coda that prisoners share, understand and guard.

Therefore, I applaud Bob Gumpert for providing his audience with as much understanding as he has drawn during his documentation. Accompanying American Prison Tattoos the multimedia piece published on Foto8 last week, Gumpert provides a “short and incomplete glossary of tattoo markings & terms” and a “list of slogans reflecting beliefs or attitudes.”

Of course, Bob Gumpert‘s work is about much more than just tattoos. He has been working in the San Francisco and San Bruno jails systems for 14 years and it touches upon every imaginable story of American cities, families and experience. I encourage you to check out Take A Picture, Tell A Story, his multimedia platform for his jail work; his general website; and his blog.


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com


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