This film shows drawings and photographs from the three books that make up the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia trilogy by Danzig Baldaev and Sergei Vasiliev. At over 1200 pages in total, these books detail the unique collection of drawings made by Baldaev during his lifetime as a guard in St Petersburgs Kresty prison. His documenting of this closed world was reported to the KGB who unexpectedly supported him, realising the importance of being able to establish facts about convicts by reading the images on their bodies. The motifs depicted represent the uncensored lives of the criminal classes, ranging from violence and pornography to politics and alcohol. A medieval knight is surrounded by the severed heads of his enemies, a naked woman simultaneously services a man and two dwarfs, a crying President Gorbachev grips a human bone between sabre-like fangs, a group of angels drink vodka with God on a cloud. These are the signs by which the people of this closed society mark and identify themselves.
© FUEL Publishing 2009