Documentary Photographer Boogie on the Life x Death of the American DreamJuxtapoz // Monday, 12 Apr 2010
“[Boogie] has photographed gang members and drug addicts in Brooklyn’s housing projects; neo-Nazi skinheads in Serbia; and transsexual prostitutes in Sao Paulo, Brazil — gaining unfettered access into worlds where outsiders are normally greeted with violence, suspicion, or a combination of the two,” continues Newton.
“He has told these stories with an unflinching eye — never recoiling, but always attempting to provide a truthful portrayal. 'It’s just the way I see the world,' Boogie says. 'People who view my work can make their own judgments.'
“Boogie’s photographs have the power to knock the wind out of you, or set a fire in your mind. His shots are provocative in an unexpected way. Amidst violence, sorrow, and grim reality, he manages to wring clarity and beauty from the chaos.”
Matthew Newton: When you hear the term, “the American dream,” what does it mean to you?
Boogie: [The American dream] used to mean something, but now I think it’s dead. Before coming to the U.S., I had this vision of Americans starting their little business and succeeding based on their hard work and good ideas. Nowadays, you open your little coffee shop, you do great, and then Starbucks comes and destroys you. Or you pay your health insurance every month for years, then you get sick and the insurance company won’t cover you, so you go bankrupt. You hear more and more stories of normal, middle-class people struggling to meet ends. Doesn’t sound like a dream any more.
Do you think this means that life in America has become harder, or that life in the 21st Century is just more difficult as a whole?
I think life is more difficult in general, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. With all the technological advancements we see, people’s lives should be easier, not harder.
You are originally from Belgrade and moved to New York City in 1998. What prompted your move and what attracted you to settle in New York?
I never planned to come [to America], but I won a green card lottery—so I couldn’t not come. We had some family friends living in New York, and at first they offered me a place to stay. But a week before I left they changed their minds. I came anyway, stayed a week at a friend of a friend’s place, rented the first studio I could find in Queens, and the rest is the classic immigrant story.
When you first arrived in New York, did you experience culture shock?
Of course, it was a huge culture shock. I’d never been to the States prior to moving here. So whatever I knew about the U.S., I learned through the movies. It meant I knew nothing. In the movies, even police detectives have amazing lofts in the heart of the city, and there I was in my studio in Queens without TV, just a mattress and an old radio. So it was rough. But what can you do? You accept it and get through it. It took a while to adjust. And if you ask me if I would do it all over again? Nope, never.
Can you tell me about your experience living through the Serbian civil war?
It was actually the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. It’s really too much to get into here, it was all surreal, people suffering around me, pretty heart-breaking. I go into more detail in my book Belgrade Belongs To Me, but just to give you an idea, children and old people in hospitals were dying because of lack of medicine and food (The U.N. imposed economic sanctions on us in 1993); people were committing suicide in order to not starve to death; suicide rates were through the roof; and soldiers were coming back from the frontlines half- insane.
How did living through this experience influence your perception of war?
It made me feel more for my fellow human beings, probably because it was a direct experience, I wasn’t just watching it on TV.
Read the full-length interview with Boogie from Matthew Newton at True/Slant here.
More on Boogie at www.artcoup.com