The Chin Women

Tattoos have for centuries been more than just about body decoration. They serve to distinguish a group of people and, in tribal societies, are often indicative of age, or
social and marital status.

This collection of intimate photographs celebrates the ornate, beautiful, diverse tattoos of the women who dwell mostly in the Chin and Rakhine states in western Burma, now Myanmar.

The tattoos emphasize individual features, using patterns and symbols related to nature and the animal kingdom: The sun (or the fan of a peacock's plumage) on the forehead, tiger whiskers below the nose, a spider web on the cheeks, and diamond-like shapes resembling reptile skin on the nose, eyelids and chin.

Since ancient times, these women have been willing to endure pain and sacrifice blood in the name of beauty enhancement. To these women, beauty meant power - the power of seduction.

Some of the tattoo patterns you see here have never been documented before. And as a fast-vanishing tradition, the women bearing these ancient marks are the last of their kind.