by Alix Lambert
Enter into any cell of the teeming Russian prison system and the story of its inmates will be visible on the flesh. Prisoners tattoo the marks of their crimes – killers wear daggers, drug hustlers wear spiders – and of their captivity. This startling work gives unprecedented access behind the bars of some of the most notorious prison facilities in the former Soviet Union, and decodes the secret language of the tattoos therein. More than 190 powerful black and white and color photographs expose the veiled messages within the tattoo iconography, where crucifixions, Madonnas, executioners, animals, and insects are not what they seem. This book chronicles a day in the life of the modern-day Ivan Denisovich, capturing the dying art of tattooing in Russian prisons and the broken lives of the inmates who still observe the "Thieves' Code." This mesmerizing book presents tattoos as symbols of rank, survival, and human expression in a menacing world where even ink is contraband.
8 1/2" x 11", 160pp, softcover