The annual Tattoo Festival (Wai Khru) in Thailand attracts many hundreds of devotees. Tattoos are applied by hand with long needles, the tattoo ink is rumoured to be blended with snake venom, amongst other things. Tattoos are believed to have magical properties which protect the wearer from harm. At the festival, hundreds gather in the grounds of Wat Bang Phra, a temple about an hour outside Bangkok. Some enter a trance-like state, channeling the spirits of animals until, mimicking the animals which possess them, they crawl or sprint towards the temple’s main shrine.
This year was the third that I have photographed the Tattoo Festival and it was fascinating to spend the night before the main festival in the temple grounds. Tattooing takes place throughout the night. In contrast to the noise and chaos of the following morning, the night is peaceful with small groups gathered in rooms and halls around the temple, waiting for their turn to have a new tattoo and to have tattoos from previous years re-blessed, the magical power being replenished.