The art of Boogie, a Belgrade born, Brooklyn based photographer, will make you cry.
Typically black and white, Boogieâ€™s intimate depictions of everyday life tell stories; sad stories, love stories, stories of growing up too soon and dying too young; true stories, the kind that are better told through pictures, if only for our languageâ€™s lack of appropriate words to tell them with.
Mournfully disarming, Boogieâ€™s images of political unrest, gang culture, and people and places the world over exemplify the power of photography. As genuine as the man who takes them, each shot exposes viewers to a world imperfect, showing that, sometimes, it is lifeâ€™s flaws that offer up its most beautiful momentâ€™s.
â€œI always listen to my gut instinct, and whenever it tells me something is wrong, I take off, I donâ€™t push it further.â€
Format: Please tell us about your background, both in photography and in general…
Boogie: Born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia; moved to New York in 1998 after winning the green card lottery. Both my father and grandfather were into photography – cameras were all around during my childhood. I was never interested in photography, quite the contrary; I graduated with the degree in Microprocessors and Electronics.
During the UN economic sanctions imposed on my country in 1993, while people were starving and selling everything from their homes to survive, I started buying vintage cameras from the flea markets – I just liked the way they looked – then my dad bought me my first real camera, an Olympus OM-40, and I started to take pictures. I think my main reason for getting into photography was to preserve my sanity amidst all the madness going on around me.
Format: Your photography is exclusively black and white â€“ why have you chosen that medium?
Boogie: I think that b&w works best with my subject matter, also, I think that color is sometime too much information – you can be easily distracted from the essence. But I shoot color when clients want me to.
Format: Your work is very enlightening from a sociological and political perspective. Is this your intention?
Boogie: No, not at all – I shoot whatever I feel like, whatever strikes me. I just follow my heart. Subject matter, as well as style, evolves all the time. Iâ€™m into shooting birds lately.
Format: What perspective does your position as an immigrant lend to the work youâ€™ve done in places like Cuba and Istanbul?
Boogie: I donâ€™t think being an immigrant has anything to do with the way I shoot. Of course, growing up in Belgrade and living life the way I did influenced my style, but thatâ€™s the case with anyone. Our experiences in life always affect the way we see things.
Format: Scars, poverty, and a harsh portrayal of reality are constant themes in your work. As a photographer, did you grow into this subject matter, or has it been with you since the beginning?
Boogie: I think the darker side of human existence always attracted me from the beginning, probably because of what was going on around me when I started doing photography. In a way, the perspective I had back then stayed with me, and even if I shoot puppies and flowers they usually come out with a darker tone.
Format: Your photographs are at once beautiful, painful, and emotional. What do you hope people learn from looking at them?
Boogie: Iâ€™m shooting because I love to do it; my intention is not to preach.
Format: How is it that your subjects â€“ particularly those in your â€œdrugâ€ series – allow you to photograph them in such sensitive situations?
Boogie: It took me a while to gain their trust, and there is no recipe for that. The whole project took two and a half to three years to complete – I think the key was that Iâ€™m a good guy and I wasnâ€™t there to judge them. I gave them respect and I got respect back.
Format: Your subject matter has probably placed you in several dangerous situations. What risks do you take doing what you do, and why is it worth it?
Boogie: I donâ€™t think I take many risks, I am extremely careful, especially now that I have a kid. I always listen to my gut instinct, and whenever it tells me something is wrong, I take off, I donâ€™t push it further. When I look back, every trip to the public housing projects was probably a risk, but I didnâ€™t see it like that at the time.
The beautiful thing about photography is that as you change as a person, your style and subject matter changes too.
Format: You recently released a limited edition version of your monograph, Itâ€™s All Good. That is an incredible book â€“ can you tell us about it?
Boogie: Actually, the limited edition book that I released in January 2008 has nothing to do with Itâ€™s All Good. Itâ€™s a completely different book, called just Boogie, no guns or needles, no aggression. In a way it shows that I have a soul after all, it shows my gentle side. Itâ€™s a very personal selection of street photos from all around the world, only 500 copies were printed, each of them signed and numbered, with a print.
Itâ€™s All Good was released in Fall 2006 and shows gang life and drug addiction in and around New Yorkâ€™s public housing projects.
Format: Judging from the places youâ€™ve been, the situations youâ€™ve placed yourself in, and the people you have met, it seems as though youâ€™d have some invaluable wisdom to impart. What are some things your profession has taught you that you wish we could all understand?
Boogie: I still have a lot to learn, Iâ€™ll let you know when I figure it out.