Photographs Of Russian Criminal Tattoos

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 40 months ago
Photographs Of Russian Criminal Tattoos
Police Files Print No. 2. The eyes suggest he watches over others and the knights signify that he serves a commander and will execute, beat up and rape other inmates on his command.
© Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 2. The eyes suggest he watches over others and the knights signify that he serves a commander and will execute, beat up and rape other inmates on his command. © Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 1. Tattoos are status symbols in prison and this inmate has copied the tattoos of others to elevate his status.
© Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 1. Tattoos are status symbols in prison and this inmate has copied the tattoos of others to elevate his status. © Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 4. The Americana is a sign of this inmates love of the glamourised Mafia lifestyle
© Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 4. The Americana is a sign of this inmates love of the glamourised Mafia lifestyle © Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 6. The church on his chest symbolises his devotion to thieving and the six cupolas on the church indicate his number of convictions. The cat that he is a burglar, the ship on one leg that he is nomadic and the genie on the other leg that he is a drug addict.
© Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 6. The church on his chest symbolises his devotion to thieving and the six cupolas on the church indicate his number of convictions. The cat that he is a burglar, the ship on one leg that he is nomadic and the genie on the other leg that he is a drug addict. © Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 7. Text reads 'Do not / Wake'. Eyelid tattoos are made by inserting a metal spoon under the eyelid so that the ‘needle’ doesn’t pierce the eye.
© Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 7. Text reads 'Do not / Wake'. Eyelid tattoos are made by inserting a metal spoon under the eyelid so that the ‘needle’ doesn’t pierce the eye. © Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 23. This tattoo is of Prometheus who stole the gift of fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity, he was subsequently chained to a rock for all eternity as punishment.  
© Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL
Police Files Print No. 23. This tattoo is of Prometheus who stole the gift of fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity, he was subsequently chained to a rock for all eternity as punishment. © Arkady Bronnikov / FUEL

Many people with tattoos say their 'ink' says a lot about what kind of person they are, but Russian criminals like to take this approach to the next level with whole narratives played out across their bodies. This exhibition of photographs coincides with the release of books on the same subject and offers a fascinating insight into the Russian prison system.

These tattoos can offer a wealth of information including what type of criminal they are, their ranking within the prison fraternity, the number of convictions and even their personal beliefs. The subjects have gone to extraordinary lengths to tell their life stories across their bodies, while other prisoners try to use tattoos to fake seniority. The description of how you tattoo an eyelid is particularly wince-inducing (see image gallery for details).

This is another compelling exhibition from a gallery that has changed name and address twice in just over a year, but is still delivering high quality photography shows.

FUEL present: Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files is on at Grimaldi Gavin, 27 Albermarle St, W1S 4DW until 21 November. Entrance is free.

Last Updated 22 October 2014