Matthew Newton recently sat down with world-renowned photographer Boogie for a chance to speak about the photographer’s past decade of work. Part of the ongoing Annals of Americus interview series, this new piece gives us a better understanding of the Serbian-born photographer who has become known for his true life photographs of the world’s most rugged and controversial regions and people who inhabit them. Part of the interview can be found below.
When you hear the term, “the American dream,” what does it mean to you?
[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.
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.
The interview in its entirety can be read here.