Novokuznetsk: As I have written several times, one of the most noticeable visible changes around Russia in recent years is the number of people sporting tattoos...and not just one or two, but many. The demand has, not surprisingly, given rise to more tattoo salons. Alexander, who lives in the steel town of Novokuznetsk, recently opened a tattoo salon above a barbershop after getting a tattoo himself. Alexander recently expanded to Novosibirsk, which is located a few hours car ride away.
MOSCOW: Alina, a university student, was walking with friends in the center of Moscow dressed in a black bow tie, suspenders and hat. She said she is a fan of cosplay - dressing up like animation characters - and simply enjoys changing her appearance through clothing. However, on this particular day, she was just being herself, she said. It is more popular this summer for girls in Moscow and St. Petersburg to wear bow ties. Alina said she would like to get a tattoo later this summer.
MOSCOW: Sveta was riding a foot scooter on her way to Gorky Park around 7pm at night. She was sporting dreads and was dressed in a Superman t-shirt. Tattoos covered her legs. Sveta said she is a tattoo master and has a small workshop near one of Moscow's metro stations. Born in Ukraine, Sveta grew up in Siberia and then moved around Russia, eventually ending up in Moscow. She said she got her first tattoo as a teenager. She randomly made the decision while hanging out at a friends house, telling herself ''why the hell not?'' Since then, she says she has studied tattoos and works in her own style.
MOSCOW: Sonya, 18, was handing out flyers for an English-language school inside the Moscow metro near the exit on a chilly Sunday spring evening. She said she works about 12 hours a week to have extra pocket money while studying at a polytechnic. Sonya said she loves to draw - something that is a family trait - and showed some photos of her work that she had saved on her phone. She said her mother, grandmother, aunt and sister all draw. Sonya wants to use her drawing skills to earn a living...but not in the typical way. ''I want to become a tattoo master because I really like the concept of body art. Someone will carry on their body your artwork for their entire life.'' Sonya said her mom recently let her get her first tattoo. It was a drawing of a fox on her shoulder.
Roman, a barista at a Minsk coffee shop, had a lighthouse tattooed on his neck. He said "a lighthouse is a symbol of hope to sailors" and for him it is a reminder to see hope around him 'and not to despair.' He said he studied medicine and then worked in physical therapy, but didn't stick with it as the pay was so low. I asked if he made more as a barista. He said as much as double.