Photo Gallery: South African Prison Tattoos

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Cut into the flesh with nails and makeshift blades, rubbed into the wounds with a mixture of melted black rubber seals, ground red brick, trash bins, batteries, and saliva — these tattoos are forbidden in the South African prison system. Despite the severe penalties and permanent stigma, tattooing persists. For her photo study Life After, Cape Town photographer Araminta de Clermont sought out former inmates of “Numbers” prison gangs who were struggling for acceptance and survival since being released after years, sometimes decades of incarceration and shot their portraits in their current environment. Faces. Signs. A sailor’s grave. A note to a deceased mother, inked across the forehead. These full body and facial tattoos serve as narratives of crime history and life struggle. See the compelling images in our gallery.

Omar from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Stranger from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

From the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Joseph from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Moersa from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Johannis from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

From the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Ali from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Tamate from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Martin from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Anwar from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Danny from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Norman from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont

Norman with Norman from the series Life After, Araminta de Clermont