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Klaus Pichler

Klaus Pichler - Inked for life. The central european prison tattoos

Inked for life. The central european prison tattoos


From the 1950s to the late 1980s, prisons had a major influence on the culture of tattoos. For prison inmates, this form of body art reviled in the outside world had a multitude of meanings; it was closely integrated in everyday prison life, and for the inmates themselves it was proof that, even if their freedom of movement had been removed, they still had a say in what happened to their body. The wealth of tattoo motifs reflected ways of expressing emotions and longings which could not be formulated any other way in a prison environment. They also represented a collection of secret codes confirming that the wearer belonged to the prison brotherhood; they were legible only to the initiated. As “honourable forms of selfstigmatisation”, tattoos also meant renouncing a middle-class way of life on release from prison. Indeed, with the outside world associating them with crime, they implied all sorts of difficulties on the job market. As we examine them, these skin markings draw us into worlds we are reluctant to enter, created as they were in prison under conditions of spiritual turmoil, physical pain and social exclusion, and branding the wearer for life. Over the past seven years Klaus Pichler took portraits of around 150 former inmates, offering a selection of the multitude of motifs used in prison tattoos. They also provide an insight into prison life and explain the background to prison tattoos. This volume documents a tradition that is now dying out, namely that of prison tattoos in German-speaking countries.

Klaus Pichler, *1977 in Vienna, Austria. Lives and works in Vienna.

28 × 22 cm,184 Pages
101 Colour images
48 B/W images
Edition: 1000
Text: Klaus Pichler, Michael Grimm, Eva Brunner

Language: German

Design: Peter Hochpöchler
ISBN: 978-3-902675-52-1


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