Fuel, Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive
Since 1991 Fuel has combined various commissions with projects of their own, including a self-published magazine - often containing thought provoking messages, these bold graphic statements served as a developing manifesto. John Jones is proud to have been official bespoke framer for Fuel’s Russian Tattoo exhibition. This unique archive documents Russian criminals' tattoos and their coded meanings. Included in the collection are more than three thousand tattoo drawings made by Danzig Baldaev during his time as a prison guard between 1948 and 1986. Tattoos were his 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 framed photographs by Sergei Vasiliev act as an important counterpart to Baldaev's drawings, providing photographic evidence of their authenticity, and allows the observer a glimpse into this compelling and extraordinary world. In these incredible 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.
Photographic works by Sergei Vasiliev