Interview: Say What? Street Photographer Boogie Blows Our Minds.
by Daniel Haim
Boogie will blow your mind.
The native of Belgrade, Serbia got his start began documenting rebellion and unrest during the civil war that ravaged his country in the 1990s, and the experience seemed to have a profound effect not only on him, but on his work as well. Though Boogie now resides in New York – he arrived in 1998 – all of his work still carries the urgency and thought-provoking depth of a war-torn country.
Perhaps it’s because Boogie’s latest photographs focus on lives torn apart – from the runaway smoking crack in a drug den that used to be a hospital to the gang member caught in a moment of tenderness while cuddling his newborn child. Boogie appears to have shot everything, everywhere. Beggars on the streets of Caracas, Skinheads in Serbia, birds caged by power lines in Tokyo – the world looks more moody, evocative and meaningful through Boogie’s lens. Every detail takes on a life of its own.
Unsurprisingly, the photography world has taken notice – Boogie has published five monographs and exhibited around the world. He shoots for high end clients, renowned publications and countless awe-struck eyes worldwide.
Daniel: First of all, congratulations on becoming a father. How has the experience been for you?
Boogie: Amazing as always, it’s my second time – again we did a home birth, no doctors, no hospitals, just my wife, the midwife and me.
Daniel: I noticed you’ve got quite a few books out there. Did you document the birth of your child?
Boogie: As much as I could, it’s hard to take photos while you’re assisting a child birth.
Daniel: Tell us about yourself, where did the name Boogie get picked up and what’s the story behind it?
Boogie: I’m 40 years old, born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia, moved to NYC in 1998 after winning a green card lottery; I’ve shot a lot, published 5 monographs so far, had some interesting solo exhibitions. My nickname was given to me by my friends some 20 or so years ago after a character from some scary movie.
Daniel: You do a lot of “candid” or better yet documentary photography. Are you always geared with a camera where ever you go?
Boogie: Of course, I’m a photographer, that’s what I do
Daniel: Lots of Gangs, Drugs, Skinhead photography. That screams trouble, are you not afraid meeting with these people, taking their photographs? Have you ever encountered trouble? – How do you approach these people at first?
Boogie: While I was photographing gangsters, skinheads, junkies, it never crossed my mind to be afraid. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get those photos. People can sense fear easily – plus, I don’t think any photo is worth risking your life for. I encountered some minor problems, but nothing serious, after all I’m still here. I always listened to my instincts, they kept me safe.
There is no recipe for approaching people. You either have it in you or you don’t. Usually if you treat people with respect they’ll be OK with you.
Daniel: You’ve recently signed a deal with HBO’s new show “How To Make It In America” what were your feelings when you first heard HBO was interested in featuring your photography, and what do you think about the show?
Boogie: It was a great gig, I met some very interesting people and got to know how the movie industry works. I haven’t seen the show, just the pilot, which I liked.
Daniel: Here’s a funny question wrapped around the HBO show – so When did you know you finally made it, as a photographer in America
Boogie: ‘Making it’ is very relative. I made it as a human being cause I have a great family and get to do what I love.
Daniel: Have you ever thought of shooting film?
Boogie: You mean moving picture? If so, while working on this HBO show, I realized that being a director of photography is an amazing job. Maybe the only job in the world I would trade for mine.
Daniel: What is your connection with photography, your personal life, and your photographs of poverty?
Boogie: Maybe the way I grew up led me to see things the way I do? I guess so, everything you go through in life has a purpose and influences what you become in the end.
Daniel: Tell us about the shoot in Brazil Sao Paolo, how was it?
Boogie: It wasn’t ‘a shoot’, I just packed my bags and went there for a week. very intense, I shot in some scary neighborhoods, I published a book after, all good.
Daniel: What was Mexico like, where did you visit?
Boogie: I was in Mexico City with a friend of mine Adrian Wilson … it’s an amazing city, great energy, great people. Al these horror stories they tell you before you go there are bullshit. Although I’ve been in some neighborhoods where I was afraid to shoot even from the car. But you have areas like that wherever you go.
Daniel: I know you’ve visited Cuba, Istanbul, Tokyo in addition, what is it that you learn from these trips?
Boogie: Travels are always great experiences, seeing how other people, other cultures live is priceless. It humbles you in a way, makes you appreciate what you have more.
Daniel: Lots of black and white, lots of flying birds. What is it that you like the most about Black & White?
Boogie: No idea, lately I also shoot a lot of color.
Daniel: Which gallery is your personal favorite?
Boogie: You mean on my website? everything there needs an update …