While attending the Berlin Tattoo Convention this year Zsa Zsa Mattsson, editor and chief of Z-Tattoo Magazine, met my friend Dmitry Babakhin and was so impressed with his work she asked if he would be interested in doing an interview. Because of Dmitry and my friendship Zsa Zsa asked if I would be willing to do the interview. To forgo problems with written English we merely waited until Dmitry came to Copenhagen with his family and we could sit down one evening and talk. So it is with great pride that I introduce one of our favourite guest artists to the Scandinavian public.
Cover of the new issue of Z-Tattoo Issue #22 2014
Dmitry (Dmitrij in Swedish) sitting in a house constructed of Karl Von Den Steinen's book "Die Marquesaner Und Inre Kunst" of which Dmitry owns a first edition.
Photo montage by Michael Tonsberg.
Photo montage by Michael Tonsberg.
Arms and calfs
aside from arm and leg sleeves Dmitry is qute well known for his larger pieces on women
Another example with address
Through my years of travel I've met and befriended many traditional Polynesian artists from Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaií and New Zealand. Dmitry Babakhin is "Not" one of these :-) Dmitri comes from St Petersburg Russia... which is as far away from French Polynesia as you can get. Despite this "handicap" Dmitry had a burning desire to specialize in the Polynesian style. As the Polynesian style has blossomed over the years, Dmitry has been at the forefront... and by specializing where there are no others, Dmitry has acquired more experience at large scale Polynesian tattooing than most native tattooists have.
When asked about designing a good tattoo, Dmitry says that the best tattoos are firstly “Anatomical”, secondly “Cultural” and finally “Personal”.
Just as Dmitry is an Ambassador for the Polynesian style within Russia he has also become an Ambassador for Russian tattooing in Europe by travelling to many conventions, doing guest spots in Germany, Holland and Denmark, and then inviting European artists to Russia as his guest to attend conventions and work there as a cultural exchange.
When asked about Russian tattoo culture Dmitry says that the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Russian tattooing is the prison and mafia tattoos. But this is fine as even the Japanese and Chicano tattoos have this clouded past. It is part of our culture… we don’t need to forget it, there is no shame in it. It sort of adds to the mystery and danger of tattooing… something that is lost today.
Dmitry began tattooing himself at the age of 14 with a homemade machine he constructed from a cassette player and a guitar string. He later plied his trade aboard ship in the navy for several years where he was educated as a navigator before being given a chance in a street shop in 2000. However life at sea left its mark on Dmitry, not just in his lust for travel but also in the romanticism of the early seafaring explorers. As a boy he used to read the novels of Jules Verne, James Fenimore Cooper and Daniel Defoe and this as much as anything led him to sea and eventually tattooing in the style of the Pacific islanders.
However the path chosen wasn’t a simple one as information at this time, especially in Russia, was very scarce. Dmitry would scour museums, antique stores and books shops for any bits of information he could find. The Hermitage and Kunst Kamera in St Petersburg were a wealth of information and when abroad he would continue his search. Despite barely speaking a word of English he began attending tattoo conventions and doing guest spots in Europe with other tribal specialists who recognized his talent and passion. This passion has finally paid off as now he is recognized as one of the top artists in his field.
So if you have always dreamed of a Polynesian tattoo but couldn't afford the ticket to Tahiti, here is your chance to see something from a Master and Ambassador of this style.