Boogie - Its All Good
It's all good by Boogie has to be one of the greatest photo books published if you are into documentary style street photography. I didn't know a lot about Boogie until I watched Everybody Street. But once I knew just a little I was hooked. I have said way too many times things like it's my favourite book, or their my favourite artist. I won't say it again here, but in all seriousness, if you are into street and you don't know who Boogie is then you should fix that. There is a really good bio about Boogie in Everybody Street. It talks about his upbringing in Belgrade. It would have been an extremely difficult time to grow up in such a place. I think this started to shape the type of work that he is known for, It's not what you would call light hearted or fun, let's just leave it at that for a moment.
The book is a little hard to find. It's also a little expensive as it was only published in a single run in 2006. I found a copy that was reasonably priced in my mind, but it was still $120US and let's just say that the condition of the book matches the content. It's a little rough around the edges. This doesn't however take away from the quality of the image, and much like the fact that it's the history's of the subjects in Boogie's book that make the stories in the images so powerful, the history of my copy adds a little fore me.
I have used a sound track for a post in the past. I like the idea of a little easy listening while we talk about a great book. Based on the name of the artist I think some might guys where we are going with this.
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Sort of like Boogie himself, it's the original and the best. One of The best music tracks of all time. A little happy and light for the type of image that we are looking at, but the fact of the matter is this. It's All Good.
In Its All Good, Boogie manages to take something that is quite negative. Drug use, gang violence, the projects and real street life that his subjects live, and show the real thing.
What I mean by this is that when you look at the images you know that you're viewing the real thing. It's the real life, actual reality of living in this environment. It's the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of people that live like this. It is a fact. It's reality. It's not something that you can just ignore and sweep under the rug. It's life for these people. It's what they have. More importantly, in some cases, unexpectedly it's actually what they love and prefer.
These are real people. A fact that is further cemented by the fact that there I are eal life stories that are written in the first person. These stories tell real stories about the lives that these people have lived prior to being involved in the project.
Stories range from gang bangers of both Hispanic and Afro American backgrounds, to drug addicted prostitutes who sell their bodies for a pittance so they are able to find that next bag of dope (heroin) or hit of crack cocaine. In not trying to put a negative spin on these things. They are the stories of the book. More to the point they are fully supported by the images within the pages.
After reading each of the sections about the subjects, you're presented with the images that support the story. it's clear from the stories that these people are real people with real world problems that are simply out of my world. For me their problems becomes a little more disjointed when supported by the reality of the images. One lady talks about how she loves to keep a clean house now, after years of drug addiction. The images preceding tell a very different story.
Boogie talks in Everybody Street about how hard it was to shoot the project. He talks about the fact that even though he was able to go into these places and remain calm amongst the guns and the drugs, the tax on his mentality was telling. He would go home and not be able to function for days on end as he returned to a state of normality, just to go and do it all again.
It's this dedication to the subject matter than shines through in the images. It's the desire to tell the stories of the subjects. The respect for their situations no matter what. The non judgemental nature of his own personality is evident in the work. The reader is left with only the images and the short stories to make judgement about the subjects situation.
I can't imagine how hard this would have been to cope with. I can't imagine inserting yourself into this type of environment. It would undoubtedly have an impact on the artist. I am sure he would have gone home after spending time with these people feeling empty. How could you not?
I talk in other book review about the sequence of the images in the book. In Its All Good it's not about the book in some ways. It's not about the way the images flow from one to the next. Although as we can see above there are times when there are smart little nuances at play with the ordering of the images it's just not what we as the reader are here for.
In many ways the book is also not about Boogie. When you read other photo books you're left with a feeling of the fact that there is something of the artist on the pages. Although the fact is, without Boogie there would have been no book, in the grand scheme of things he is invisible in the pages.
The books is about the subjects, for the subjects, and although dedicated to Boogie's father, I think that this is just a taken genture, as it's really dedicated to the subjects themselves. I am sure that Boogie would have had no idea what he was getting himself into before starting with the project. This is likely the case with many great photo projects though.
An artist's starts something thinking that it could be a good series, only to find out that they have stumbled on something amazing. They have unlocked the reality of a situation that was previously untold. Boogie has certainly done this in this book.
It's a reality that hits home to the reader. Not something that I think anyone would really have an understanding of without reading the book. To me it's like this TV or movie reality that is brought to the hard light of the day by the images in the book. Maybe it's due to the fact that here in Australia we are so far removed from this level of gun violence or drug adiction.
There is one of the short stories in the book about one of the subjects that talks about the gang initiations that happen when joining 'The Bloods'. These news worthy events that are shown as random acts of violence on the evening news. The subject of this section of the book talks about how they know better. They know that these stories in the news are their doing. There is almost a feeling of pride about this fact. It's a little scary.
I say that it's scary, but I feel bad about the fact that I am making a judgement about the subjects. I think Boogie would also hope that readers don't use his images, and the words of his subjects to pass a judgement on them. This is just their story. It's not meant to be a good or bad one. It's not meant to be happy or sad. It's meant to be real.
If you're someone that is into documentary style street work and are an avid collector of books this is a great buy. As I said they are hard to find at a decent price, but with a little searching and a slight compromise on mint quality books it's possible.
I buy a lot of books from Abe Books and there are some great titles there. Some of them come at stupid prices as with anything on the net. There are also some great sellers that are reasonable. If you're in the US then it will be even better as you won't get stung with the ridiculous shipping that I get hit with.
If as a photographer I produce anything even close to the quality of work that is in Its All Good I would be a happy happy man. The amazing thing about it is that Boogie has more than one book. I have a copy of one of his other books, Istanbul. It's not on the same level as It's All Good, but it is none the less a great book.
When listening to the very short section of Everybody Street that is devoted to Boogie I am in awe. I love his work. I love his attitude. I love his style, both personally and photographically. The man has style and class. Get to know him as an artist, it's worth it.