Danzig Baldaev was born in 1925 in Ulan-Ude, Buryatiya, Russia. The son of an ‘enemy of the people’, he was subject to repression in communist Russia and sent to an orphanage for children of political prisoners. After serving in the army in World War II, he came to Leningrad in 1948 and was ordered by the NKVD to work as a warden in ‘Kresty’ – an infamous Leningrad prison – where he started drawing the tattoos of criminals. His collection of tattoos were recorded in different reformatory settlements across the former USSR between 1948–2000. Danzig Baldaev died in 2005.
Sergei Vasiliev was born in 1936 in the Chuvash region of Russia. He was a staff photographer for the newspaper Vecherny Chelyabinsk for over thirty years. He has received many honours including International Master of Press Photography from the International Organization of Photo Journalists (Prague, 1985), Honoured Worker of Arts of Russia, and the Golden Eye Prize. His work has been exhibited internationally and is held in numerous museum collections. He is author of more than twenty books, including Russian Beauty (1996) and Zonen (1994).
Arkady Bronnikov (born 1926) is regarded as Russia’s leading expert on tattoo iconography. In the early 1950s he studied at the Moscow Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union where he later worked as a local police inspector. In 1963 he became a professor of criminalistics at the Perm Faculty of the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs where he worked until 1991. During this time he collected thousands of photographs of tattooed prisoners across the Soviet Union. He regularly helped to solve criminal cases by using his archive of tattoo photographs to identify culprits and corpses.