Dmitry Babakhin, Artist of the Year 2013


Dmitry Babakhin, "Bang Bang Custom Tattoo", St. Petersburg, Russia

Tricia: How did you get started tattooing?

Dmitry: The first time I'd encountered tattoo when I was about 13-14 years old and the first tattoo magazines and magazines about rock music first came to the Post-soviet territory. About that time I’d first heard foreign rock musicians and learned that 90% of them were tattooed, which impressed me very much. It looked very cool and because I wanted to be cool too, I got my first tattoo when I was 14. It was done by a friend and I didn't like the results, but I'd seen how to do it and this is how I got started. After that, tattooing went along with my other interests and with the test of time, tattoo became my primary sphere of action.

Tricia: How did your interest in Polynesian tattoo come about?

Dmitry: The first tattoo I got on my body was a tribal piece from tattoo magazine. If I remember right, it was a copy from tattoo made by Leo Zulueta . Well, I loved this style from the beginning. Besides I was a big fan of adventure literature-- Robert L. Stevenson etc. when I was a child, and this was also a big influence on my later interests. 

Tricia: Have you ever had the chance to visit any of the islands?

Dmitry: I've never been outside Europe before.  Sure. it's a huge omission and I can't wait until I'll be able to afford to reach the islands.


Tricia: Because my primary interest is Polynesia, that's most of what I've seen of your work. Do you do other styles as well, such as Celtic or even color?

Dmitry: 99% of all my works is South Pacific stuff, but sometimes I do some other ethnic ornament like Russian for example but it happens really very rarely.

Tricia: Do you work with other artists in your studio? And do they specialize in any particular style?

Dmitry: I work with seven other artists at my shop and our shop is kind of like family for us. Every artist works in his own style - someone prefers old school, someone else does Japanese tattoo. etc.

Tricia: Are Polynesian designs very popular in Russia? And are many of your clients familiar with Polynesian cultures?

Dmitry: I can't say that Polynesian tattoo is very popular in Russia but nevertheless I have enough work.  Most customers pick up a smattering of Polynesian culture. Some of them only know the picture of Dwayne Johnson's tattoo, but I try to enlighten my customers as much as I can. I have blog about Polynesian culture in one of Russian social networks, and I can be proud that a few clients bought some of your books after getting tattooed by me.


Tricia:  What is your biggest inspiration for your artwork? Where do you find good resources? I would think that it might be hard in Russia.

Dmitry: The main information resource is books. of course.  Von den Steinen, Linton, Handy who wrote on Marquesan tattoo are good books. The only real barrier in getting information here is language, cause there's no information in Russian except Krusenstern and Mikloucho Maclay.  Also I get a lot of inspiration from communicating with the native people of this culture, which mostly happens at tattoo conventions.  I also have a nice collection of wood and bone carvings, which also inspires me.

Tricia:  Do you paint or do carving or other arts as well?

Dmitry:  Sometimes I do paint, I wish I could do it more, but for now it happens quite rarely. And carving is my big dream. I hope to start it someday. 

Tricia:  Your photos of your work are also outstanding!  Do you take your own photos?

Dmitry:  I take horrible photos so mostly my friends and photographers do it for me.

Tricia:  That’s the usual. I find most tattooists don’t take good photos, but you certainly are a talented tattoo artist!  Thank you, Dmitry!

Dmitry:  I would like to say thanks to Phil for the interesting project Tatau Awards and thank you so much for your interest and your important contribution to this culture.


See Dmitry's nominated tattoo pictures.

Exclusive interview by Tricia Allen. No reproduction without written permission from Tatau Awards web site.
Photos: Dmitry Babakhin.

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