An Inside Look At American Gang Culture With The Photographer Boogie

Boogie started his career in photography by documenting the violent incidents of the civil war that was going on in his country Serbia in the 1990s. Though now Boogie is a resident of New York where he arrived in the year 1998, the bitter memories of his early life in a war-torn country and the bitter lessons he learnt during the days of the civil war still reflect in his photography. The gang culture of Serbia made him an expert in gang photography. As a gang photographer Boogie has documented a wide range of touching or scary scenes like the caged birds in Tokyo, Skinheads of Serbia and groups of beggars all along the streets of Caracas. Those who view his photographs get a gloomy and thought provoking picture of the world. Each and every detail in his photograph is significant. All the five monographs of Boogie were exhibited at various places the world over. Boogie takes photographs for the popular publications as well as many other prestigious clients from different parts of the world.

Though the gang photography practiced by Boogie is very risky, he is not scared of the gang culture and manages to take the photographs of notorious gangsters, junkies and skinheads. According to him there is no specific method or technique to approach these types of people and one has to carry out the task in his own way. He learnt from his experience that the policy of ‘give respect and get respect’ will always work. He understood that when we give respect to people and treat them with respect they are unlikely to be rude to us. In America, now Boogie is the director of photography in an HBO show. Boogie had said that he found the job quite amazing and he believes that he can take up only the photographer’s job. 

Boogie believes that his photography of subjects related to poverty is well connected to his personal life. According to Boogie, the various incidents that take place in one’s personal life have some purpose and these incidents are in a way responsible for what he becomes at last. After arriving New York, Boogie started his gang photography activities in Queensbridge, Bedford-Styuvesant and Bushwick. Since he is familiar with gang culture, Boogie managed to establish friendship with the members of various gangs in America. When the gang members felt that they can trust him, they provided him easy access to their lives. From the gangs he could capture not only the blood stains on the floor and many signs of warning, but also love and friendship. In addition to the many gang members, Boogie also maintains rapport with the cops, small children and the drug addicts who spend most of their time in the streets only.

The black and white photographs edition titled as “It’s All Good” is the best example of gang photography by Boogie. This edition is ten years old and on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of this edition it was updated and re-released. About ten years back, only the gang culture prevailed in some places of America like Queensbridge, Bushwick and Bedford-Styuvesant. Gang violence and shooting were very common in these places and outsiders avoided going there out of fear. Boogie, the gang photographer from Serbia successfully established friendship with the gangs in these places and they allowed him to walk through the streets and have a view of the cops, the children, the crack addicts and the criminals who are the inhabitants there. Boogie whose real name is Vladimir Milivojevich walked through the streets of Bedford-Styuvesant for the first time in 2003 and managed to have conversation with a few members of the gangs. Later, when they came to know that he is a professional photographer they asked him to take their photographs. In the photographs they posed with their guns. When the photographer could build trust with the gang members, they allowed him to have the view of their inner-lives and thus Boogie managed to carry out his mission as a gang photographer.