All posts tagged: tattoo

New Zealand’s Mongrel Mob gang, photographed by Jono Rotman

Arresting. Exquisite. Gripping. Chilling. Disgraceful. Unacceptable. These are all words people have used to describe portraits made by Jono Rotman. Created over the last decade, his project Mongrelism presents an intimate look at members of the Mongrel Mob – New Zealand’s largest, most notorious gang. Though he is looking at a subculture as an outsider – a domain regularly mined by photojournalists – Rotman eschews a traditional documentarian approach to his subject matter. In so doing, the project’s scope extends beyond the Mob itself to touch upon issues related to New Zealand’s charged colonial past and self-professed biculturalism, the politics and ethics of portraiture, and the intersections of seemingly disparate human experience.

The New Zealand-born photographer explains that since childhood, “I always felt certain violent and uneasy forces within my country”. In Lockups (1999-2005), Rotman photographed the interiors of prisons and psychiatric hospitals throughout New Zealand, exploring the medium’s ability to convey the fraught “psychic climate” embedded in these state-controlled institutions. The works are eerily devoid of people, a deliberate decision made, says Rotman, “because I wanted to encourage a direct, personal interaction with the spaces. With prisons, for example, as soon as you introduce people into the picture, it becomes easy to think, ‘Here’s the storyline: this place is for those sorts of people. And I can fit it all into my established worldview’.”

2018-11-05T12:20:53+00:00

Festivals: Photo Oxford returns, with a new team and big ambitions

Think of Oxford and it’s the world-famous university that will probably spring to mind first; the ancient city is not necessarily one you would immediately associate with photography. But that may be about to change with the debut of a new fortnight-long “celebration of photography” from 08-24 September, curated by Tim Clark and Greg Hobson. With a focus on the medium’s “potential to conceal and reveal”, the programme is small but convincing, with work carefully matched to specific venues in the city centre. For example, Oxford’s old fire station, now a thriving public arts space, will host an exhibition of photographs devoted to Russian prison tattoos.

2017-07-21T13:01:22+00:00

Evoking the symbolism of seafaring legacy

Over thousands of years, the tattoo has been etched into the global imagination, absorbed into every culture, marking the art form’s innate permanence as the ultimate emblem of pride, identity and rite of passage. In his latest series, Everlasting, photographer Tom Brannigan captures the symbolic spirit of the practice, focusing on the roots of body art in maritime history. The work takes inspiration from traditional sailor tattoo designs, employing a playful and at times tongue-in-cheek approach. Brannigan carefully constructs still-life photographs from objects he has collected, to evoke the imagery adopted by seafarers as mementos and talismans that primarily served a superstitious purpose among those living an unpredictable, and often risky, lifestyle. Images of swallows, skulls, daggers, hearts and roses are constructed predominantly with mass produced, toy-like props to reference the often stylised and cartoon-like nature of this genre of tattoos. “I’ve been fascinated by tattoos ever since I was a kid,” says Brannigan. “I’m interested in the language and symbolism of tattoos, and how a design becomes almost a cultural icon when it is repeated over time.” “Everlasting started out of a love …

2016-11-23T16:45:57+00:00

Grimaldi Gavin’s inside job

“The number of people we’ve had in to see this show have been unbelievable,” says Julie Gavin, co-director of Grimaldi Gavin on the gallery’s new show Fuel present: Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files, which opened on 17 October. “We had 50 people in on Monday morning alone,” chips in her partner, Camilla Grimaldi. “And our audience has been interesting,” adds Gavin. “We’ve had our established collector base come and find it interesting, but we’ve also had some very different, much younger people who maybe we wouldn’t ordinarily attract.” It’s easy to see why – curated from the archive of criminal tattoo photographs held by the Fuel design group and publishing house, this exhibition is an extraordinary insight into the Russian underworld’s inky symbolism. Collected – and often shot – by expert criminologist Arkady Bronnikov between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s, the images were originally put together to help break the convicts’ code and have a stark formalism, and often palpable tension, that makes for very interesting viewing. Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell, the directors of …

2014-11-26T21:55:35+00:00

BJP Staff