The Russian prison tattoo (and the Soviet tattoo as its forerunner) is a special language. Every drawing on the convict’s body has a meaning, secret and explicit meanings. Tattoos can tell the whole story of a convict: tell about his crimes, views, status and skills. Later, the tattoo for the criminal became a kind of secret language, a way of communicating with his own kind both in freedom and in places of detention. Prison tattoos are invariably associated with crime, they still attract the attention of many people from all over the world. This is what my book is dedicated to.
The main subject of my book’s research is prisoners’ tattoos. In the main text, you can find information about tattoos from various sources, also in the book there are handwritten notes that seem to have been left by a prisoner serving a sentence. This is an important visual part of the book. Sketches of tattoos are also made by hand with a pen to create an assembled composition. So, based on all the information, you can find out the details of the prisoners’ lives, which are depicted in the photographs. However, it is impossible to perceive the collected portraits as the truth, because they were compiled only thanks to the analysis of the tattoos of the prisoner. During the layout, the technique of crossing text blocks was used to create the effect of prison aesthetics.
The book consists of 172 pages with 3 sections and 8 chapters: the history of appearance in the criminal world, prison castes, female images, animal images, religious motives, violent tattoos, LGBT tattoos, the language of tattoos. The book cover and the schmutztitles simulate a real tattoo stuffed on the prisoner’s skin. This project was done as a student project in HSE Art and Design School in 2021, curated by Ivan Vetrov.
- Agency/Creative: Elizaveta Zhmurina
- Article Title: Visual Study of the Russian Criminal Tattoo Created by Student Elizaveta Zhmurina
- Organisation/Entity: Student
- Project Type: Typography
- Project Status: Published
- Agency/Creative Country: Russia
- Agency/Creative City: Moscow
- Market Region: Global
- Project Deliverables: Design, Drawing, Graphic Design, Research, Typography, Writing
- Industry: Information
- Keywords: Book design, typography, visual research
Designer: Elizaveta Zhmurina