Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive
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Tattoo drawings and prison portraits from Fuel’s fabled archive of Russian criminal subculture
This volume presents highlights from Fuel’s singular collection of authentic material on this subject. Previously unpublished in its original form, this work comprises ink-on-paper drawings by Danzig Baldaev, the photographic albums of Arkady Bronnikov and prisoner portraits by Sergei Vasiliev. The selection is contextualized with insights from Mark Vincent, an author and academic specializing in the Soviet Gulag, and Alison Nordström, a photography scholar, writer and curator.
The meticulous depictions of tattoos by prison guard Danzig Baldaev are reproduced in facsimile, authenticated by his signature and stamp, alongside his handwritten notes on the reverse. The paper has yellowed with age, giving the exquisite drawings a visceral temporality, almost like skin. Sergei Vasiliev’s photographs portray inmates in startling intimacy. He achieves a remarkable level of trust within the closed criminal society, a strict hierarchy, where outsiders are viewed with hostile suspicion. Arkady Bronnikov’s collection of photographs are shown in the albums in which they were collected. Used exclusively to aid police in their investigations, they depict a motley lineup of assorted body parts.
Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive is the only publication of primary material on this subject, highlighting the pioneering methods these three individuals used to document this unique phenomenon.