A few of the Russian Criminal Tattoo encyclopaedias have been passed around the Collective studios from time to time and it has always made for interesting viewing. The books are a collection of illustrations documenting real tattoos adorned by Russian criminals. For these convicts the tattoos reflected their criminal careers and personal beliefs, as well as signifying their criminal status.
The drawings were produced by Danzig Baldaev who worked as a prison warden at Kresty (an infamous Leningrad prison) between 1948 to 1981. Throughout his career as a prison warden he documented all of the criminals tattoos through drawings in his notebooks. As you would imagine a lot of the imagery used in the artwork is pretty obscene, but there are hidden depths to the work, which only comes about when you read up on each tattoos meaning.
There was no photography allowed within the exhibition, but i did treat myself to the 'Drawings from the Gulag' book which is shown above. The other cool thing was that i got a free set of 18 bookmarks made from Russian prisoners playing cards.
Sadly this weekend was the last chance to see the show, but if you want to see some pictures of the tattoo's you can see a few on FUEL's site here, and you can always buy yourself one of the encyclopedias