29.04.14 - 31.05.14 Spring Show

20.02.14 - 17.04.14 Sarah Moon - About Colour

05.12.13 - 14.02.14 Bradford Washburn

18.09.13 - 31.10.13 Miyako Ishiuchi

05.07.13 - 30.08.13 Gunnar Smoliansky

13.06.13 - 29.06.13 The Late Chelsea Flower Show

02.04.13 - 11.06.13 Brett Weston - Nudes and Dunes

13.02.13 - 28.03.13 Josef Hoflehner - Jet Airliner and Ha...

12.12.12 - 09.02.13 Finders Keepers

22.06.12 - 22.08.12 Ellen von Unwerth - Do Not Disturb

20.04.12 - 26.05.12 Christer Strömholm

24.02.12 - 31.03.12 Hisaji Hara

02.12.11 - 21.01.12 Boris Savelev - Colour Constructions

07.10.11 - 12.11.11 Jerusalem

09.07.11 - 24.09.11 Made in Hungary

24.02.11 - 21.04.11 Sohei Nishino - The Diorama Map Series

09.12.10 - 31.01.11 Leopoldo Pomés - Vintage Prints

22.10.10 - 20.11.10 Mary McCartney

09.09.10 - 16.10.10 Shomei Tomatsu

30.06.10 - 21.08.10 Russia! Boris Savelev, Nicolay Bakhar...

28.04.10 - 26.06.10 Miroslav Tichy

14.01.10 - 25.04.10 Fernand Fonssagrives

04.12.09 - 15.04.10 Winter/Spring Newsletter

25.11.09 - 09.01.10 Weegee-It's a crime to take photogra...

14.10.09 - 21.11.09 Ellen von Unwerth- Fräulein

02.07.09 - 02.12.09 Summer Newsletter

19.06.09 - 13.10.09 A Gallerist's Choice-Group Show

21.04.09 - 26.06.09 Boris Savelev- 31 years

11.03.09 - 20.04.09 Miyako Ishiuchi -1906 to the Skin/Yok...

18.02.09 - 07.03.09 Sergei Vasiliev-Russian Criminal Tattoos

05.02.09 - 01.07.09 Spring/Summer Newsletter

25.11.08 - 20.01.09 Secret City

16.10.08 - 22.11.08 Sarah Moon - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

22.09.08 - 01.01.09 Mixed Show

03.09.08 - 11.10.08 Lucien Hervé

01.08.08 - 18.09.08 Jones Beach - Joseph Szabo

12.06.08 - 01.09.08 Miroslav Tichy

01.06.08 - 15.07.08 Ruth Orkin

17.04.08 - 07.06.08 The New York School

22.02.08 - 05.04.08 Mirella Ricciardi

06.12.07 - 26.01.08 The Bold and the Beautiful

04.10.07 - 01.12.07 Eyes Of An Island - Japanese Photogra...

12.09.07 - 29.09.07 LONDON - Matthew Pillsbury

02.07.07 - 04.08.07 Dr. Harold Edgerton

28.06.07 - 01.08.07 Alfred Eisenstaedt

01.06.07 - 27.06.07 Colin Jones - The Black House

26.04.07 - 17.06.07 Edward Quinn - A Day's Work

03.02.07 - 14.04.07 Fashion

01.02.07 - 10.03.07 Hunter S. Thompson - Gonzo

29.11.06 - 03.01.07 Peter Beard - Time's Up

26.10.06 - 03.11.06 Flip Shulke - Hero

12.10.06 - 14.11.06 David Parker – Sirens II

12.09.06 - 07.10.06 Emil Otto Hoppé - Hoppé's London

23.05.06 - 01.07.06 Botanicals

11.05.06 - 17.06.06 Miroslav Tichy & Jacques Henry Lartigue

01.09.05 - 01.10.05 Ken Griffiths - Three Gorges

23.04.05 - 31.05.05 Sarah Moon - Circus

08.03.05 - 06.04.05 Joseph Szabo - Teenage

24.11.04 - 31.01.05 Peter Beard - Living Sculpture

04.11.04 - 15.01.05 Matthew Pilsbury - Screen Lives

15.09.04 - 30.10.04 David Parker - Sirens

20.11.03 - 17.01.04 Photographs from the Bauhaus


For past exhibitions at Michael Hoppen Contemporary click here

Sergei Vasiliev-Russian Criminal Tattoos

18.02.09 - 07.03.09

Untitled Tattoo Print
© Sergei Vasiliev courtesy Michel Hoppen Gallery

Unique. Vintage silver gelatin print

12 x 16 inches

 Michael Hoppen Gallery


18th February- 7th March 2009

Russian Criminal Tattoos

Bodies as Text Sergei Vasiliev

Between 1948 to 2005, 3,000 drawings were compiled by prison warden and ethnographer Danzing Baldaev of the tattoos of the inmates. Supported by the KGB, who recognised the usefulness of such a document, these drawings were supplemented by photographs by Sergei Vasiliev, a fellow warden. 

In 2003, the publisher Fuel began repackaging the sketches and photographs into the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia. The Michael Hoppen Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of Vasiliev’s photographs from this fascinating archive.

The motifs depicted represent the uncensored lives of the criminal classes, ranging from violence and pornography to politics and alcohol. Sergei Vasiliev's graphic and unflinching photographs show the grim reality of the Russian prison system and some of the characters that inhabit it. Malnourished, defiant, preternaturally aged and pensive, the photographs evoke a sense of compassion for the convicts despite the brutal crimes many of them committed.

The tattoos depicted are a language in themselves, comprising of a rich array of symbols and illustrations that denoted a prisoner's crimes and political allegiances, as well as his or her rank in the prison hierarchy. Prisoners typically applied them to each other — not always with consent — using inks improvised from soot, sugar, ashes and urine. Vasiliev’s black-and-white photographs are an important document of Baldaev's illustrations, designed to confirm their authenticity, but becoming something much more- humanizing the hardship and heartbreak behind the bravado of the illustrated flesh.

Russian criminal tattoos have, in some small but significant way, begun to infiltrate and influence the Western ideas of Russia at its most secret and dangerous. In recent years, they have been depicted in David Cronenberg's film "Eastern Promises" and in Martin Amis' novel of the Great Terror, "House of Meetings." 

Each vintage silver gelatin print is completely unique.



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