Stijn De Grauwe (BE), jailer / photographer, Horpmaal

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“Convicts aren’t allowed to tattoo each other in prison but they find ways to do so anyway – same goes for the prison I work in. For example, a while ago I had to confiscate a tattoo gun made out of the spring of a ballpoint pen, connected to the power supply of an old PlayStation-controller. Their inventiveness is to be admired, but it also results in some crappy tattoos. But it intrigues them, and every once in a while you see a tattoo coming from one of those machines that looks cool, but those are the exceptions. It’s not like they have a choice or a wide array of artists to go to.

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That being said, it’s not like my collection of tattoos is that interconnected. I’m an impulsive person, and I like different styles. Combine those two and you can easily understand why my tattoos are so different from one another. My impulsiveness has never brought regret, though, except for my first tattoo, perhaps… Luckily, I got that one covered.

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When I’m not working or getting tattooed, you can find me at a concert or festival with my camera taking pictures. I dreamed about making a photo shoot with inmates one day, but it’s a no-go, due to privacy reasons and everything. It would be great to document how it feels to work in a prison, though. You’re dealing with rapists and murderers, but because of your job, you get to know these people in a different way. Sometimes you meet an inmate and think: ‘In normal life, I could easily see myself have a beer with this guy’.  That’s not a thought you take home with you, but we do try to give them a treat every once in a while; like that time we booked Amen Ra to play a set for the prisoners. You should have seen them! After the concert they had the chance to buy the record and now, months later, you can still hear the heavy guitar sounds coming out of some cells.”

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