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(in)significant - Leipzig/GDR

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Leipzig had always been the gateway to the world through its trade fair: As early as 1723, two tattooed men were presented at the Leipziger Messe. Later, around 1890, Irene Woodward, known as "La Belle Irène," showed the visitors of the Leipzig Zoo her full-body tattoo. With a tight skirt and a deep décolleté, the professional tattooed woman received the spectators; they could even touch her tattooed skin. The body paintings of "La Belle Irène" depicted religious motifs as well as those taken from nature.

Erasus Schröter, infrared photograph: Tattooed young man, Leipzig, 1981

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On the other hand, the performances of the tattooed woman were only worth a headline in the local press when they reported an alleged performance ban of a "fully tattooed lady." The artist did not receive such a ban; it was not introduced until 1932.

The brief and at the same time lasting meeting of the writer Joachim Ringelnatz with the topic "tattoo" also occurred in the Leipzig zoo. As a pupil, Ringelnatz allowed having an "H" engraved on his forearm by a Samoan who was a guest in one of the colonialist “Völkerschauen” in the Leipzig zoo at the beginning of the 20th century. The young Ringelnatz was expelled from the school because of his tattoo.

A short century later, Leipzig photographer Erasmus Schröter photographed former prisoners who had been tattooed around 1980 in a series of photos. Schröter searched for his models in advertisements and met them at home or events in the city.

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The photographer worked on the series, which was created mainly at night, using infra-red technology that makes the profile and motif of the tattoos more prominent. The men photographed by Schröter display their tattoos with pride; the series provides rare insights. Before Leipzig became extremely well-known in the East German tattoo scene, the theme was largely excluded or treated as a marginal phenomenon in everyday life of the GDR.

Erasmus Schröter, infrared photograph: tattooed man in front of carousels, Leipzig 1981
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