The dollar bills, skyscrapers and machine gun with the initials ‘US’ stamped on it convey this inmate’s love for the American mafia-like lifestyle. The eyes signify ‘I’m watching over you’ (the other inmates in the prison or camp). The epaulette tattooed on the shoulder denotes the inmates 'rank' among the criminal caste.
These photographs of Russian prisoners tattoos were collected by Arkady Bronnikov from the mid-1960s to mid-1980s. A senior expert in criminalistics at the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs for over thirty years, part of his duties involved visiting correctional institutions of the Ural and Siberia regions. It was here that he interviewed, gathered information and took photographs of convicts and their tattoos, building one of the most comprehensive archives of this phenomenon.
Text across the eyelids reads ‘DON’T / WAKE’. Eye tattoos are made by inserting a metal spoon under the eyelid so that the ‘needle’ doesn’t pierce the eye.
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