Cultural Photo Essay Photographers

The photography of Boogie can at times be challenging and often filled with fraught images of difficult circumstances, but they’re undeniably beautiful. He manages to find the humanity in neglected corners of any city. Even when facing the most inhuman scale, he can focus on those surrounding walls find the art within them. The projects of Brooklyn. Kingston streets. Serbian life. Wherever he goes, he lets the camera lead.

Recently, commercial work has brought him to the towering world of São Paulo, where he was drawn to the pixação tags that blanket its concrete canopy. In tall, thin lettering, people’s lives are announced loudly from the curbside up into the skyline. Unforgiving architecture has become a canvas of the favela youth to loudly scream of their existence. His granular black and white photography was the perfect means to capture all of this at once. It’s literal street photography, with humanity left slashed on its dense facade.

“I was really struck by pixo the first time I saw it,” Boogie told The Hundreds of his first impression. “Combined with the brutal São Paulo architecture, it’s really intense. It hits you from everywhere.”

Pixo culture is similar to modern graffiti, centered on the tag with the purpose of getting your name up. And they use many of the same tools, like aerosol cans, rollers on the top of sticks, ladders, and bucket paint sprayers. But they blanket entire skyscrapers in Runic and heavy metal inspired typography. It has its own history separate from America, and the pixos are adamant about graffiti being a separate scene.

Buildings are mountains and the pixos are rock climbers, scaling their faces in order to paint their name at dizzying heights in a direct challenge to a society many of them feel has left them behind. “It’s got some really strong energy, a symbol of struggle,” Boogie said. And that’s no coincidence. It has roots in direct political graffiti supporting this or that party, but is now a means of challenging the system itself. It may be aggressive and destructive, but so are the lives the pixos are forced to live. Their art carries all of that weight.

But we’ll let the images speak for themselves.


Follow Boogie on Instagram @boogiephotographer.

powerHouse Books will be rereleasing Boogie’s book about Brooklyn, It’s All Good, this December 2016.

Whether through digital channels, print or on exhibit, the impact, influence and reach of the still image has never been greater. But with so many images fighting for our attention, how do photographers make work that most effectively stands out and connects with an audience. In this seven-part series, TIME looks back over the past 12 months to identify some of the ways of seeing—whether conceptually, aesthetically or through dissemination—that have grabbed our attention and been influential in maintaining photography's relevance in an ever shifting environment, media landscape, and culture now ruled by images.

The Contemporary Photo Essay

We live in an age where the volume of photographic output has never been greater. Yet the propensity is for images to be conceived, received digested and regurgitated in an isolated, singular form—and without further context. Against this backdrop, a generation of committed photographers are working passionately to iterate on, and further develop the traditions for long form story telling, and in so doing, draw attention to their subject matter through new powerful, innovative and resourceful ways.

On Aug. 31 this year, the New York Times Magazine published a photo essay that interweaved the images of two Magnum photographers working on each side of the Israeli, Palestinian conflict—Paolo Pellegrin (in Gaza) and Peter van Agtmael (in Israel). The essay was not only a creative and effective way of balancing a delicate and sensitive story, it was also, as Editor-in-Chief Jake Silverstein explained in a note about the project, conceived in part as a reaction to “the prevalence of cellphone cameras and social media [that had] led to many more images of Gaza than in previous iterations of this long-running conflict."

"As powerful as these photos were," he wrote, “the speed and fervor of their dissemination tended to bring them to us isolated from context.” The Times Magazine story was a considered attempt to have Pellegrin and van Agtmael slow things down and in Silversteins words “try to capture a deeper and more narrative sense of the texture of life on the ground." The resultant essay, that intentionally combines two aesthetically different bodies of work emphasizes “that the fates of average Israelis and Palestinians are intertwined.”

Photographer Matt Black has subverted the prevalent philosophy of Instagram for his project The Geography of Poverty. Although using Instagram as one of the primary platforms for the work, Black has maintained a thematic and aesthetic cohesion to produce a dedicated feed—devoid of distraction or interference—that builds image by image, to deliver an investigation on poverty that is essayistic and closer to that of a traditional photo essay. On the website—exclusively dedicated to the project—Black explores the potential of geo-tagging to extend the project and map the images (for this project, Black was selected as TIME's Instagram Photographer of the Year in 2014)

Photographers such as Diana Markosian with her work made in Beslan, Russia and Carolyn Drake in Turkistan have embraced different types of media and photographic approaches--including still life, documentary, portraiture as well as writing and drawing. They have also actively encouraged their subjects to contribute to the artistic process and tell their own stories through notated recollections narratives and artwork, which is at times directly applied to the photographic print. As Drake says of her project Wild Pigeon that documents the lives of the Uyghur people: “I started looking for meaning at the intersection of our views, and find ways to bring the people I was meeting into the creative process. Traveling with a box of prints, a pair of scissors, a container of glue, colored pencils, and a sketchbook, I asked willing collaborators to draw on, re-assemble, and use their own tools on my photographs. I hoped that the new images would bring Uyghur perspectives into the work and facilitate a new kind of dialogue with the people I met, one that was face-to-face and tactile, if mostly without words.”

In Ukraine a generation of young, predominantly European, freelance photographers including Maria Turchenkova, Ross McDonnell and Capucine Granier-Deferre committed themselves to documenting the searing violence and the disquieting consequences of the year-long conflict—building long-term photo essays that contextualize news events through more in-depth and nuanced perspectives.

One of the most important and powerful bodies of work was produced by Daniel Berehulak, who spent more than 14 weeks covering the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. His work, made on assignment for The New York Times, shows that long-term commitment to a story can reap astounding returns. And a powerful continuum of work, can raise awareness and deeply affect its audience.

In an age when we're saturated with an omnivorous barrage of distracting and singular imagery, there is still a role for subtleties embodied within the traditions of long form storytelling. Through innovative, full screen photo-centric web designs and effective digital dissemination, these photo essays are drawing our attention—in different and often more meaningful ways—to important issues that we otherwise would ignore or at best feel we had seen too many times before.

Read Part 1 - Direct to Audience.

Read Part 2 - Documentary Still Life.

Read Part 3 - The Portrait Series.

Read Part 5 - From Stills to Motion.

Phil Bicker is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME

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