Currently reading : Mauvais garçons : Portraits de tatoués (1890-1930)
Mauvais Garcon: Portaits de tatoues is the incredibly exciting new book of photographs taken by the French authorities from 1890- 1930 and decodes the meaning of the drawings that froze on the bodies of prisoners, convicts and individuals who passed by the African battalions at the time. The photographs were discovered through a retired policeman who had had an interest in tattoos by the authors. Besides from the book explaining the symbolism behind the tattoos it also tells the story of the daily detention of these men and their experience of social exclusion. Great detail is dedicated to the meaning behind many of the tattoos, and are categorised into the likes of revenge, erotic desire, religion, history, patriotism and love. The authors Jerome Pierrat and Eric Guillon (editor of Tattoo magazine) explain how tattoos may be common place in our society now but in France for decades they were almost exclusively associated with the underworld, the gangsters and criminals as a way to document their time in prison and criminal identity. From 1831 a brief was sent to French prison directors ordering them to record descriptions of the tattoos in order to simplify the task of identifying the prisoners behaviour, the authors describe this process as one of the most important impacts on tattooing and criminality being inextricably linked. However detrimental this process of documenting may have been on tattooing’s reputation it has left us with this greatly impressive selection of photographs.