Worldwide Locals is a series of interviews with personalities whose works paved the way to define who we are, presented to our community through their words.
Boogie is a street photography icon, globally renowned for his strong images, and his long series of books and projects. Born and raised in Belgrade, he has been shooting all over the globe since the 90’s.
Q: Born and raised in Belgrad, you were a teenager in the 90’s in Serbia during the war,I guess it must have been real hard times, what moved you to become a photographer? How much work and sacrifices did it take you to become “BOOGIE”?
A: Man, the 90’s were the dark days in Belgrade. We had war going on all around, not in Serbia though, but in Serbian territories elsewhere. People were coming home from the frontlines half insane... there was a constant flow of weapons. You could buy an AK47 for 50 bucks, hand grenade for 10. Pure insanity. Shootouts were a daily occurrence, we were all used to that.
There were also severe economic sanctions, people were starving, old people were committing suicide rather than starve to death. So yeah, pretty grim.
My late dad and my grandfather were amateur photographers, cameras were all around while I was growing up, but I never really cared about photography. Until the 90’s though. Until the chaos ensued. Protests, riot police, total chaos, economic sanctions, misery, you name it.
That’s when I started taking pictures. Basically I think the reason was to protect myself, to preserve my sanity. Because when you are behind the camera you are an observer rather than a participant. And once I started shooting, photography totally became my life. That was it, there was no going back, no plan B.
Q: From the streets of Belgrade to Bedstuy projects in Brooklyn, NY, the Brazil favelas, and many other places, how difficult has it been to get in touch with the people you photographed? I can imagine it wasn’t a one-day job to enter this guy’s wildlife and take these pictures… Any untold crazy story you want to tell us?
A: Hm, it all comes down to the energy between you and your subject. Doesn’t matter if you shoot fashion, or streets, or gangs or whatever. I think the connection happens (or it doesn’t) way before any words are spoken. And especially with the people on the margins, they operate like wolves, they can sense you, no pretending there.
You know, with the gangs, it was all accidental, I didn't know anyone in those neighborhoods, I just walked around and things somehow happened. The important thing is to follow through, to not quit. Some days are good, some bad but you have to keep pushing yourself.
But even if you know someone who can get you in with the people in favelas or wherever, yeah that’s the foot in the door. But it’s always up to you to gain people's trust.
Q: While you were carrying on your personal projects, portraying life in some of the craziest suburbs in the world, you collaborated with high fashion companies like Gucci. Do you see a connection between your photography and the fashion world? Did you feel the need to adapt yourself?
A: Oh, it is normal to adapt to some extent. But I was always lucky to be hired because of my style, energy, whatever...Never had the situation to be told “We want photos like this…” Well, then hire that guy! But the bottom line, the point, is to sell stuff, so some compromises have to exist. You work closely with creatives to figure out the best way to do it!
Q: Your life has changed, you are married, you have kids. Would you re-do what you did before? What should we expect from Boogie in the future?
A: Hahaha, I wouldn’t change anything, especially when it comes to my photo adventures, there were some priceless experiences there. And I would definitely do it all over again.
“Neapolis” book just came out some weeks ago...Another book coming out in the fall. So yeah I’m keeping busy, that’s the only way. Always ready. You never know when your next project will happen, you have to be ready. I have the best job in the world, cause it’s not really a job…It’s what I love doing, money or not doesn’t matter...
I live that shit, man.
Worldwide Locals is a monthly series curated by usual.