Prison can’t be all that bad, right? Three hot meals a day, plenty of exercise, a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in… and if you’re lucky enough to get locked up in a Russian gulag, there’s always an opportunity to get marked with some serious ink.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and at the peak of the gang wars during the aftermath, photographer Sergei Vasiliev gained access to some of Russia’s most brutal prisons to document the fading symbols of lives dedicated to bloodshed, violence and the unspoken moral code of criminal underworld. And these ain’t your average tramp stamps and tribal tattoos – each tattoo has it’s own specific meaning and when translated can read like a storybook of the bearer’s criminal past (and present) and you can read more here for details. Oh, and fuck jail. That shit’s terrifying.