Cedric Arnold was on assignment in Thailand when he first saw a shipyard worker covered head-to-toe in tattoos. This was Arnold’s entry point into the yantra tattoo tradition, one that goes back hundreds of years and spans several countries in Southeast Asia.
Arnold’s project, “Sacred Ink,” consumed four and a half years of his life and took him all over Thailand to cover this tradition in its entirety, from the giant ceremonies for devotees to the rare tattoos that are only found in certain parts of the country.
Incorporating elements of Buddhism, Animism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism, the tradition is believed to go back as far as the ninth century, and there’s even historical evidence of soldiers wearing the tattoos for protection in battle during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Copy of Matthäus Merians’ Death and the Queen 1852