I hope I’ll make it to Berlin when this exhibit is up!

The Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive, founded by London-based FUEL design group in 2009, is a tattoo collection  that comprises 739 original drawings by Danzig Baldaev and the photographs of Russian prisoners taken by Sergei Vasiliev.

This unique archive contains 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 accompanying photographs by Sergei Vasiliev act as an important counterpart to Baldaev’s drawings, providing photographic evidence of their authenticity, and allowing us a glimpse into this compelling and extraordinary world. In these incredible…

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The same goes for touching beards, by the way. No touching, friendo.

Following up from yesterdays post of “Shit People to say to Tattooed People” I think it’s only appropriate to follow it up with an article recently posted by The Gloss entitled “Stop Asking me what my Tattoos Mean”.

Author Jamie Peck,  touches upon the invasiveness of curiosity and sometimes the downright rudeness of strangers. It is something that every non-tattooed person should read before running over to a stranger, pulling on their shirt, touching their skin, and asking them questions. A lot of people just don’t think before they act and we know many people in our community have experienced an inappropriate encounter at least once.

Peck says in the article, “I realize not everyone who asks this question is trying to be creepy; some have just taken the wrong messages from the media. While they’ve been helpful in normalizing tattoos to people who don’t have them, TV shows…

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‘Color Outside the Lines’ Tattoo Documentary

Very cool documentary project by Miya Bailey on tattoos in black culture. As far as I can tell, they’ve already reached their funding goal on Kickstarter, so I hope the movie will come out soon. Here’s a snip:

The film highlights the history of black tattoo culture and how it began in the south despite a heavily segregated climate for black artists seeking entry. We cover signature styles and how those styles have developed and influenced newer artists over the years. Tattooing in the media is another important aspect, as it is the biggest factor of how the cultures influence has spread. It is no secret that entertainers and athletes dictate the trends younger generations pick up on and tattooing is no different. What is surprising is despite the money these cultural icons have, some of their work is no better than the kid who got his in a basement down the street from his house. This further deludes the public as to what great artwork looks like and what is available to everyday people.

I’m really looking forward to watching this, because of the kind of my work I see a lot of African Americans who are sometimes heavily tattooed but in a very different style than I was used to seeing in Germany (or among whites for that matter). And the quality of those tattoos also tends to be not very good. As they mention on their website,

The black community has an overwhelming population of “scratchers”: untrained people with tattoo machines looking to make a fast buck. A person’s thirst to get inked often leads them to seek out a scratcher because they are sold on the cheap price and opportunity to get inked. More often than not the end result is a poor tattoo that many regret, can become infected or just looks terrible. This perpetuates the cycle of stigmas associated with the art form.

The official website is not up yet, but read about the documentary and watch the trailer here.


I started a Tumblr for ‘modern primitive’ / tattoo / pagan -related stuff (photos, mostly).

And you can submit stuff, too!

Or just look at pretty pictures.

That’s all.

Well, almost. I have no idea where the photo above is from, but this is Yvonne, who did my backpiece in Berlin years and years ago. Back then I was really happy with it, but now, more than ten years later, I think I probably should have waited a little. I don’t know, it’s a relict of its time, I guess, and it’s not a horrible tattoo. However, if I would get a backpiece again I would get much more solid, abstract blackwork than what I have back there now.

Let’s just that there is a lot of ‘cover-up potential’ back there and not because of the tattoo itself, but because I’m in a different place than I was back then…

And I know I still owe you guys a photo of my finished sleeve.

I didn’t forget.

I’m just lazy.

Tattoos ✔, Freedom of Speech ✔


Needles and Sins’ Marissa translated the legalese of a recent court decision on California, which basically says tattoos = free speech. These are awesome news. Here’s a snip from her post:

There appears to be little dispute that the tattoo itself is pure First Amendment “speech.” The Supreme Court has consistently held that “the Constitution looks beyond written or spoken words as mediums of expression.” […] We do not profess to understand the work of tattoo artists to the same degree as we know the finely wrought sketches of Leonardo da Vinci or Albrecht Durer, but we can take judicial notice of the skill, artistry, and care that modern tattooists have demonstrated.

For the entire post, visit Needles and Sins.

Do it!