Book Review: It’s All Good
I read an article online about the 50 Greatest Street Photographers Right Now and up at No 4 was a photographer called Boogie. I had never heard of him and so ordered a copy of his amazing book ‘It’s All Good’.
This is a pretty hard hitting look at life in the run down and violent areas of New York. The images, all presented in black and white, were taken over the period 2003-2006. The subjects in this book are people who are involved, directly or indirectly, in gangs or drugs. Regardless of the few cheery faces each of them is a victim in some way and trapped by their social circumstances.
If the images weren’t hard enough to look at there are several personal narratives from some of the subjects. These stories explain how they got into their current situation and are all brutally frank and honest.
As I worked my way through this book I found myself being very impressed by the way the photographer had managed to get access to the scenes. I assumed that he was a black male who was born in the area and may have run with the gangs himself. When I reached the end of the book I found five pages of thumbnails from the book with comments by the photographer. From these comments I quickly realised that the photographer was actually born in Serbia and was white. He drifted into the region by accident, shooting on the fringes and, as time passed and his face became more familiar, he moved in deeper. Many of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood thought he was an undercover cop – the only white face in the district, but despite this he managed to survive for over three years of visits. I am very impressed by the level of access and trust he managed to generate in such a short space of time.
I have seen several reviews that accuse Boogie of being exploitative. I really don’t get that ‘vibe’ from this book. I feel that Boogie took these images because he cared about the subjects. He grew to call some of them friends and committed a good portion of his life to the project. This book sets a new benchmark for documentary photography; will this particular subject be covered again in a better way. I doubt it! So until then make sure you get your copy of the book.
Published by powerHouse Books
Boogie’s website is at http://www.artcoup.com/