For Scott Campbell, what began as a trip to Mexico to photograph inmates’ tattoos turned into a quest for originality in a sea of the tattoo-culture banality. “Tattooing is something that I’ve loved my whole life, but in the past few years, it has been hijacked by reality TlV [sic] and mall culture,” the Brooklyn-based artist and tattoo artist tells FastCoDesign.

Moreso than the tattoos themselves, Campbell was inspired by the inmate’s determination to get inked — even at the risk of month-long solitary confinement — and their crafty makeshift tattoo guns constructed from whatever scrap materials they could find, from rusted razors to toothbrushes.

He started donating his own supplies like VCRs and cassettes to custom-build tattoo guns for each of the prisoners, then used the guns to custom-tattoo the inmates  making sure avoiding “any risk of cross-contamination.”

Then, he rendered the tattoo guns as hyperrealistic-black ink paintings that comprise his recent exhibition, “Things Get Better.” They look very similar to Robert Longo’s gun series, and yet… Way to up the DIY ante, you dollar-burning bastard.