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What is a Flashmob? History and Meaning Behind the Movement

Historically speaking, the word “mob” has been associated with acts of violence, or at the very least, social upheaval.

You’ve probably heard of an “angry mob” before, in reference to a group of angry people toting pitchforks and torches, usually motivated to march based on some socio-political injustice or another, perceived or real.

angry-mob-1-1

A “flashmob” is essentially a reclamation of the term “mob” by putting a much more positive spin on it in the form of performance art.

Generally speaking, a “flashmob” is a gathering of a certain number of people that takes place in a public space that happens seemingly mysteriously and lasts for ten minutes or perhaps less, with the intention of surprising, delighting, and sometimes confusing onlookers.

These gatherings came to be popular as the age of social media and smart technology grew, allowing for people to more easily connect, and more easily organize such a spontaneous and exciting event as a flashmob by way of Facebook group, or a flurry of texts.

history of the flashmob

During flashmobs, people dance, sing or just freeze in place, not moving for a couple of minutes.  As such, flash mobs do have some connection to the idea of musical theatre, in their exuberance and choreography.

This gives the general impression to anyone watching that these flash-mobbers showed up out of nowhere, almost like magic, and then disappear without any trace.

Flash mobs can be for artistic sake, for fun, or they can be for the purpose of advertising some event or product.  They can even be political.

Generally, however, flashmobs capture the spirit of fun in any populated location and change the whole atmosphere of that place, which may otherwise be mundane, into something exciting and unifying.

Here is an example of a flashmob in action.

History

Officially, the first known flashmob happened in 2003, when a senior editor of Harper’s Magazine – Bill Wasik – anonymously organized one in Manhattan, New York.

Here is Bill speaking on his idea of what flashmobs are all about.

That first Manhattan flashmob turned out to be a well-executed event, that attracted participants to come before any action occurred to a few different bars, located near the place where the flashmob occurred, where they got more information about what to do just before the start of an event.

Around 130 people spread through the Macy’s store by looking for a “love rug” for their suburban commune.

According to Wasik, he just wanted to create a type of social experiment that lampooned the next “hot new thing”, in a very American way of always looking for the next big event or cultural change.

As a result, flashmobs became a rather powerful for people in the US because the tradition of public space in the country was seeming to be lost, and, if nothing else, flashmobs expressed a way to reclaim public space, if only for a short time.  In some ways, this could seen as a “fight the power”, “stick it to the man”, anti-corporate move.

Here is a popular flashmob production that has made the rounds on Youtube – maybe you’ve seen this.

While this flashmob happened outside, and has been inspiring people since it was performed and uploaded, many flashmobs occur indoors.

As you know if you are from an urban area, cities are known for their many shopping malls, where modern consumer people spend their leisure time.  To some, this is fine, and acceptable, while others take some issue with the concept of malls in one way or another, with one major reason being that a mall is a “public space” that is not actually public, and very limited in terms of how one might express themselves there.  It is typically not a place to be “free”.

For example if you were to try to express yourself in that public space, you would realize very quickly how non-public that space actually is. In fact, it is completely corporate and under strict control.

inside a shopping center

Yet, at the same time as a mall is a very controlled place, it in and of itself has the perfect characteristics to become a stage for performers to perform in.  The only problem is that malls typically do not allow for performances of dancing and music to just suddenly appear.  This is where flashmobs come into play.

Back in 2003, Bill Wasik was interested in what you can and can not do in regular public spaces in this day and age. He organized eight flashmobs that summer and what was astonished to find that by the end of that summer, the idea of flashmobs spread not only through the whole country, but abroad too!

Bill Wasik’s initiative evolved into something that he couldn’t control anymore – the cat was out of the bag, so to speak! – and so then transformed him into an observer of subsequent flashmobs.

Flashmobs in Advertising

After that fateful summer of 2003, the idea of flashmobs via the internet has spread throughout the whole world, becoming a true viral sensation.

What began partly as a bit of a prank and partly as a social experiment in New York City had now become part of popular culture, and the idea was being related via the internet and word of mouth, becoming a “thing”, as it were.

From school performances to political protests to advertising and promotional events – flashmobs as a creative way to express people’s ideas have become popular all around the globe.

flashmob advertising

One of the main reasons why flashmobs become popular around the world is that they are unexpected and catchy. It affects the viewer in a positive way – he becomes not only an observer but also a participant too.

Because of the flashmob’s tendency to be quite memorable due to their surprising nature, they are a great way to promote something in advertising.

T-Mobile, a german communications company supported a flashmob that took place in Liverpool Street Station in 2009.

Suddenly people from the crowd started to dance to popular music hits by involving more and more people. It brought joy for people and was a unique way to promote a company’s brand.

 

Train stations are also very suitable places for flashmobs because they are spacious and always have an audience. Another huge flashmob was created the same year, 2009, this time in Antwerp, Belgium central station when 200 people danced according to legendary musical “The Sound of Music” song “Do Re Mi”. This performance succeeded and became very popular on the internet.

In 2013 April in a shopping mall of Breda, Netherlands the famous painting of Rembrandt The Night Watch was recreated of a theatrical action of people dressed in 17th-century clothes. The main idea was to announce that Rijksmuseum, a Dutch national museum in Amsterdam is reopening after 10 years of renovation.

What started as a social experiment later become an important tool to express social, political, and cultural ideas, and gave an opportunity to everyone who is interested to participate in this vital global movement.

Flashmob as a political act

Since flash mobs had spread through different countries, various initiatives took the idea and used it for their purposes.

In 2013 Members of the European Parliament together with an activist Eve Ensler initiated a flash mob, which was dedicated to ending violence against women. This particular flashmob encouraged others to organize flash mobs not only in Brussels but in other places too.

Another famous flashmob also appeared in 2015 in Kyiv, when a crowd of Ukrainian people together at the same moment fall down and lay on the ground for one minute.

The idea was to show how many people suffer and died during the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Both countries are still participating in the military actions against each other, so peaceful reflection of those events could send a very powerful message to the world.

In 2019, during the protests in Hong Kong, demonstrators used a flashmob technique – they popped in different locations in small groups because that allowed them to disappear quickly when police came to act against the protesters. They also made flashmobs during which they sang symbolic resistance songs.

Thank you for reading this article about flashmobs.  If you have seen or been a part of any flashmobs and you’d like to share your experience, please mention it in the comments below.

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What is Yarn Bombing? About the Guerrilla Knitting Art Movement

What Is Street Art? Its History, Definition, Purpose, and Importance

What Is Installation Art? Description, History, and Prominent Artists

 

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What is Yarn Bombing? About the Guerrilla Knitting Art Movement

what is yarn bombing

What is Yarn Bombing?

Yarn bombing is part street art, part graffiti, and part activism, which combines the seemingly “cute” and comforting elements of knitting and crocheting, with the revolutionary and mild civil disobedience of graffiti / “tagging” of public objects, in order to make some sort of artistic statement.

Yarn bombing, aka “guerrilla knitting”, can be done to smaller, more innocuous objects like a water pipe or tree branch, highlighting them in some way and making you notice them (whereas you may not have before), or, on the other extreme, it can be done to big things like a bus or stairs, a statue, or even a tank!  Yarn bombing certainly draws attention!

The overall purpose of yarn bombing is to make a statement, by changing the way we look at things. But when did it start?  Let’s take a look!

yarn bombing tree

Magda Sayeg & the History of Yarn Bombing (Knitta Please)

Yarn bombing basically started in 2005 in Houston, USA, when a woman named Magda Sayeg created her first “yarn-bomb” artwork, inadvertently, when she put some knitting over her door knob.

Just a small gesture, but it got the ball (no pun intended) rolling, because people started to notice and give her positive feedback.

Magda would be the first to admit that she didn’t think that her one little knitted door handle would grow to become a movement, that would go on to change her life and be done throughout the world.

Magda Sayeg yarn bomb history

Visit Magda’s website here

Soon after, she started a group called Knitta Please which is a community of like-minded knitters who like the idea of beautifying public spaces.

But what made her do it in the first place?  The reason why Magda yarn-bombed her door handle was simple – she just wanted to put something warm and cozy-looking on a cold urban material that she sees every day.

When you think about it, this instinct is quite natural, but to some people, it’s a slightly weird idea. People can understand putting a cozy on a teapot, but a doorknob?  Why dress up your doorknob?  Well, why not!

Magda didn’t stop with her doorknob. She decided to go to the public space and wrap the stop sign near her house. No big deal, right?

Well, it caused a public reaction: people not only stopped by to look at it but also started to take pictures of this unique view that they saw.  Was this a joke?  Who would put yarn on a stop sign?

stop-sign

Peoples’ reactions to her new hobby influenced Magda to continue her work by placing her knitting over more and more things, and so the movement began.  Some people didn’t like this, but some did, and that was all it took to start the trend.

Little did the unsuspecting public know that there was a group forming, in the form of Knitta Please, where all the knitters have their own “handles”, based loosely on hip hop and graffiti culture. Names include: Knotorious N.I.T., SonOfaStitch, P-Knitty, PolyCotN, and AKrylik, to name a few.

yarnbomb-paris

The “bombs” began slowly.  A few poles, and then some trees, and a few other “normal” objects started to get this new “look”, providing them with a positive vibe that people maybe didn’t see before.

Knitta Please grew and grew, and together with Magda’s growing passion, her curiosity what else could be “bombed” grew as well.

They stuck to hip hop conventions, even putting knitted sneakers over telephone lines the way that gangs did it to express their dominance of a given territory, although the prevailing message in this case was a message of niceness, as opposed to aggression.

yarn bombing sneakers

The things these “guerrilla knitters” decided to “dress up” became bigger and bigger, with one big project being the wrapping of a whole bus in Mexico City.

This action gave way to another POV, a new perspective on yarn bombing, and changed her career further because she became known by her artwork to the other people.

Another interesting thing happened after the bus: according to Magda, yarn bombing had stopped belonging to only her, and it became a fully functional art movement across the world.

The more people saw wrapped up things in the public areas, the more started to repeat it by creating their own pieces in different places all around the world.

yarn bombing trees

Magda proved that there is no object in the public place, which cannot be yarn bombed. From a door handle at her home to statues, to tanks, to basically *anything*.

Her installations brought joy and gave life to the grey and cold urban environment and that showed that by using imagination, art can be created everywhere and from all kinds of materials.

The Movement Grows

Since the message of this new type of street art spread through the whole wide world, more and more artists tried to create new and exciting projects by using the yarn bombing technique.

Some of those artists became very well known, like London Kaye. (visit her website here: https://www.londonkaye.com/)

She started to knit when she was thirteen years old, but her perspective on knitting was pretty much traditional, till she saw one girl with a crocheted bag and thought “ohh, that’s cool!”  From there it became more or less an obsession.

London Kaye

After she put her knitted scarf on a tree for the first time, London got excited and realized that this could be the beginning of something new and important in her life.

She loves to watch people’s reactions to her work and these many positive feelings pushed her to keep creating even more.

The main tool she knits with is a needle printed by 3-D printer. According to Kaye, yarn is a great material for creating art because it is flexible, allowing for stretching and manipulation of shapes, which opens the door for lots of different possibilities.

Started with water pipes and trees, London had created many works for various companies.

She implemented an idea of a crocheted 25-foot-by-50-foot billboard for Miller Lite Beer in Times Square, New York.

Miller Lite Beer yarn bomb

Also, Kaye did some yarn bombing in one of the New York metro trains on Valentine’s day and people’s reaction was generally very friendly – they smiled, took pictures, and said compliments to the artist for her idea.

Kaye’s activities have in and of themselves, inspired many knitters to take up the needles and start knitting. She invited knitters from New York to bring various pieces of knittings, they could all create together.

As a result of this gesture, one big crochet was created and hung on one of the fences in the city. It showed that everyone can try to create something in unison and yarn bombing can help to bring the community together.

Yarn bombing as a political statement

Since the beginning of the yarn bombing, it has brought people together, but it is more than a happy-go-lucky movement.  There is a sense of activism around it.

One of the examples of “political” yarn-bombing is a tank in Dresden, Germany. This idea to do this controversial act was born for Kristina Kroemer, who is a political scientist and owns a fashion design store.

She was interested in Dresden’s history, the city was completely destroyed during WWII, so the war topic was always inseparable from the town. Her cause was, in a nutshell – good vs. evil.

So, she put her knitting on this tank, which was in front of the Military Museum. According to her, after this act, the tank looked rather innocent, almost harmless – creating an anti-military statement.

yarn bomb tank

Similar statements had been made about the war in Denmark, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

With all kinds of crocheted objects bringing joy and inspiration to people, yarn bombing has spread through many countries and inspired many meaningful movements.

Have you seen any yarn bombs lately?  Leave a comment below!

What is a Flashmob? History and Meaning Behind the Movement

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Piet Mondrian – from De Stijl to Broadway Boogie Woogie

piet mondrian

Pieter Cornelis Mondrian was a Dutch painter, became one of the first well known Abstract art painters and with his unique style influenced many modern art creators.

Background

Piet Mondrian was born on 7th March 1872 in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

He was a second child in a family, which was filled with artists, so art became a part of Piet‘s life naturally at an early age.

His father, together with his uncle, used to paint local landscapes and even was a qualified drawing teacher. According to historians, his uncle was the person who has taught him basics of drawing.

While growing up in the Amersfoort, Mondrian saw how the whole town was changing.

A new shopping street, tramway, and railway – becoming a modern city, Amersfoort showed that the world was changing and becoming a new, industrial place with new shapes and ideas.

piet mondrian young

According to Inge Vos, who leads a guided tour about Mondrian‘s life, all these changes could have had an impact on Mondrian‘s interest in technology and change that developed his style into minimalistic and abstract.

piet mondrian self portrait

Practicing to become an artist

In 1892 Mondrian enrolled the Academy of Fine Art in Amsterdam.

At that time, he was working as a drawing teacher, but also was working on his own style by painting traditional Dutch landscapes of fields with windmills and rivers.

He was experimenting with the primary colors by combining Post-impressionism and Fauvism painting styles.

A good example of his work could be “Evening Red Tree”, created between 1908 – 1910.

Piet_Mondrian,_1908-10,_Evening;_Red_Tree_(Avond;_De_rode_boom),_oil_on_canvas,_70_x_99_cm,_Gemeentemuseum_Den_Haag

This painting combines a realistic object, a tree, and an expressive palette of colors, which was inspired by another Dutch painter – Vincent Van Gogh.

After creating this drawing, Mondrian visited an exhibition of cubists’ works in 1911 in Amsterdam.

He was so inspired by what he saw, that shortly after, he decided to move to Paris and get to know more about Cubism and meet a leader of this movement – Pablo Picasso.

In the spring of 1912, Piet painted “The Flowering Apple Tree”, which shows how Mondrian was influenced by Cubism.

the flowering apple tree 1912

This work combines his ideas of traditional painting and strict shapes of Cubism.

Thus began the beginning of his way towards becoming a painter of a totally new area of minimalism and abstract art.

De Stijl

When World War I started in 1914, Mondrian was visiting the Netherlands and he decided to stay till the conflict will end.

At that time he was describing himself as a Cubist, but he was still looking for an inspiration to convey his ideas and improve as an artist.

This is why he joined “De Stijl” (The Style) – a movement of the artists and architects, dedicated to the neoplasticism ideas.

Together with the movement, the other Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg released a magazine with the same name “De Stijl”, which gave a voice to the artists to spread their ideas and theories about the art.

De_Stijl,_Vol._1,_no._1,_Delft,_October_1917_(detail)

This activity of Mondrian is considered as interesting and unique because most of the artists didn’t write about their ideas, they used to paint as the only form to express it. That said, manifestos were becoming all the rage.

On the other hand, Mondrian was becoming an abstract painter and to avoid wide interpretations of his art, it was better to talk about his ideas to the public.

France: Evolution of an artist

The end of World War I marks Mondrian’s journey to becoming one of the more unique and modern abstract art purveyors of his time.

In 1918, when Piet returned to Paris, he started to create grid-based abstract paintings, which combined clear black lines and vivid primary colors of yellow, blue and red.

Mondrian,_Composition_with_color_planes_and_gray_lines,_1918

Between 1920 and 1921, more and more space in his drawings was changed by involving a white color, leaving bright primary colors just as details in the whole space.

London and New York

Fear of the growing power of Fascism in Europe led Mondrian to run from Paris to London in 1938.

Piet_Mondrian_and_Pétro_van_Doesburg

It was mainly because his art didn’t fit in any rules of regime, which was uprising very fast in Europe.

For the safety of expressing his ideas along with he himself, the artist left Europe in 1940, shortly after World War II had started. New York was a breath of fresh air to Mondrian.

A modern city with inspiration at every corner, fulfilled with a new culture and jazz music, which Mondrian enjoyed a lot, and the most important – freedom to create whatever he wanted and dreamed of.

Piet Mondrian was not married, but according to historians, he uses to go out to the jazz concerts a lot, where he could dance and flirt with beautiful women.

Influence of American culture: Broadway Boogie Woogie

In 1943, Piet Mondrian finished his work called “Broadway Boogie Woogie”, which was different from his abstract works.

The style of this painting was similar to previous works: he painted small and larger squares by using primary colors by invading a simple white, but the main difference was, that this works was inspired and even wanted to repeat the things of the real-life such as busy daily life in Manhattan.

Little colored squares symbolize its buildings and the whole microflora of a city.

2eb74-mondrian-broadway-boogie-woogie

Next to that, it looks very dynamic too, like a boogie-woogie dance style and what is also interesting, from nowadays perspective it looks like a scene from the 90‘s computer game, which is fascinating.

Piet Mondrian was highly influenced by the American culture, he enjoyed nights out in the jazz clubs, which clearly inspired him to live the life he wanted and to shout to the world about a new modern era.

piet-mondrian-600x420


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Vincent van Gogh and The Path from Dying Alone in an Asylum to Most Popular Painter Ever

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter, one of the most important post-impressionists of Western art history.

Vincent was immensely talented, a talent which was always known to his loyal bother Theo.  Vincent wrote to Theo at the end of his life when Vincent was institutionalized.  Vincent was always down on his luck for his entire life.

Despite his mental health problems, from which he suffered for many years, Van Gogh left many inspiring works, which shaped modern art.

Not merely shaped modern art, but Vincent’s art is actually more synonymous with fine art.   His work has been celebrated across the world by those who appreciate his color choices, and his way of capturing the world.

irises

The sad irony is that Vincent, in his own time, was a “nobody”.  If only Vincent could have seen into the future.

Vincent is known for cutting his own ear off,  and as a poster boy for the tortured artist.

Vincent-Van-Gogh-Artist-Figure-5

Poster boy couldn’t be more literal in this case.  Vincent and his hacked off ear, have appeared now on countless posters.  Many of his other posters feature views he painted while his mental state was crumbling.   At that time, Vincent was institutionalized at the Saint-Paul Asylum, in St-Remy de Provence, near Arles, in Southern France.

Here’s a video tour…

In fact, part of the journey of this blog article is to trace the interesting path from a mentally unwell person, dying alone in an asylum, to being on posters in peoples’ homes and on sketchbooks around the world.

vincent van gogh larrge sketchbook

These days, everyone recognizes his brushstrokes and the way he depicts the light in the sky, pastoral scenes, and faces.  It is as distinct to many of us now, just like a signature.  The man behind these strokes only became known in this way after his death.

But let’s travel back to his beginning…

Background

Vincent van Gogh was born on 30th March 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands. He grew up in a middle-class family and got interested in painting at an early age at his mother’s suggestion.

When Vincent was growing up, he was a serious and calm person and after he became an adult, he wasn‘t sure which path he should choose.

vincent van gogh young photogaph

In 1869 his uncle obtained a job position for him as an art dealer at Goupil & Cie in London, England.

Vincent kept a close relationship with his brother Theo, by frequently writing letters to each other.  Theo’s wife, being privy to all the correspondence between the two brothers, described Vincent’s years in London, working as an art dealer, as the best in his life.

letters to theo

He was good at his job and it brought him so much happiness. Unfortunately for Vincent, happiness was a fleeting state of mind as he suffered various mental health issues from an early age which always dragged him down.

Van Gogh‘s father was a minister of a Dutch Reformed Church, so religion had always played a special role in his life.   At one point, as a young student, Vincent tried to pass the exam for theological studies at the University of Amsterdam.   When he failed to pas the exam, Vincent was determined to seek out his path in life.

van gogh photo

Becoming a painter

 

Van Gogh birthplace Zundert via Van Gogh Museum

As he continued on his path of self discovery, never once did he stop sketching and painting those important images that surrounded him….still life and farm life.

While Vincent continually doubted himself as an artist, his brother Theo was the one, who encouraged Vincent to keep painting and become a professional artist.

vincent van gogh early work

When he moved from his parents home in Etten to the Hague, his cousin Anton Mauve gave him his first professional drawing lessons in which Van Gogh learned about perspective,  and how to apply paint in watercolor and oils.

With his basic knowledge of painting, Vincent came back to his parents’ home in December 1883, where he could practice by painting ‘peasant life’.

One of his known early works is called “Potato Eaters“, which consists of dark colors, and illustrates a  typical family of the 19th century, eating dinner.

van gogh potato eaters

In Vincent‘s letters to his brother Theo, he explained that the idea of showing peasant‘s hard work by painting their bony hands was more important than drawing everything according to art rules.

This thought of his shows that, Van Gogh from the beginning of his career decided not to be a traditional painter and create only according his own perspective and imagination.

The Path From Unknown to World Famous

Since Vincent‘s brother, Theo was living in Paris at the end of the 19th century, the painter used to spend some time there.

At that time, Paris was an important centre of art for painters in Europe.   Surrounded by modernists, Vincent honed his style one step at a time.  More color was introduced.

van gogh

In 1888, Van Gogh moved to the city of Arles, in the south of France, where his style became more and more free and expressive.

He painted local landscapes of yellow fields and beaches, when french painter Paul Gauguin joined him.  They started to live and create together.

They painted each other‘s portraits, talked about painting and art very passionately.

van-gogh-and-gauguin

From 1888 until Vincent’s death in 1890,  he created his best works of art.  It also marks an incident, which is well known and inseparable from his personality. During one of the discussions with Gauguin, Vincent injured himself and cut his ear.

After this incident with his brother, Theo knew clearly, that Vincent struggled with mental illness and for some time he needed to break with painting, and pay attention to his health.

His Last Year

Things went downhill quickly.  After the ear incident, Vincent was kept at the Psychiatric Hospital in Saint Rémy.

During this time, his brother Theo married Johanna Bonger in Amsterdam, who gave birth to a boy, who was named after his uncle Vincent.

van gogh's family

Vincent was happy for his brother and decided to give him a painting as a gift. Unfortunately, he didn‘t know then, that his painting “Almond Blossom” would become one of his most beautiful and well-known works.

It was interesting that Van Gogh was very ill at that time, but the painting was bright and peaceful, which reflects the relationship he had with his brother Theo.

almond blossoms

In early 1890, Theo was still working as an art seller in Paris when at the exhibition in Brussels, he brought six of Vincent‘s works, including “The Red Vineyard“, which was sold.

More importantly, that exhibition was official appreciation from people, including Paul Gauguin, who was impressed by Van Gogh‘s skills.

Regardless of this recognition and the public‘s positive reactions to his paintings, Vincent still struggled mentally, and couldn’t find peace within himself.

Vincent van Gogh shot himself on the 27th of July and died from injuries on 29th in 1890.

van gogh death suicide news

Morbidly ironic is that even today the gun that he used is famous…

the gun that killed van gogh

Vincent Van Gogh was looking for his path in life, and faced many challenges.  Instead of giving up, he never  stopped creating beautiful art.  Van Gogh’s style became well known all around the world and brought joy to the art lovers everywhere.

Vincent van Gogh’s tragic life still resonates today with many mentally ill people, regardless of how happy they seem, or how much people try to help them.

Vincent van Gogh was a passionate man and a very talented painter.  He was able to capture the world in a unique way, even though his life was tragically ending.

His brother Theo died only 6 months after Vincent from syphilis.

Graves_of_Vincent_and_Théodore_Van_Gogh

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Alexej von Jawlensky – Abstract Heads

Alexej von Jawlensky is a Russian Expressionist who joined German avant-garde during the early 20th century by mostly creating mesmerizing portraits.

Alexej von Jawlensky

Background

Alexej von Jawlensky was born on 13 March 1864 in Torzhok, Russia. His family moved to Moscow when he was ten years old and after he enlisted in military training, he had visited the Moscow World Exposition and got interested in painting.

That interest quickly began to grow and Alexej started to study painting in St. Petersburg. He had a sociable character, which helped him to get into touch with famous Russian painter Ilja Rapin and later with an older and richer artist Marianne von Werefkin, who made a huge impact in his later life.

alexej-von-jawlensky-bärtiger-alte

Munich – a magnet for artists

Munich was very popular for artists at that time when Alexej moved in in 1896 together with his supporter Marianne von Werefkin, who was his main sponsor to create by providing him financial and emotional support for many years.

He started to study there in the art school by famous Slovene realist painter Anton Ažbe. After much studying, he moved from an academic painter to an innovative colorist.

1911 Alexej von Jawlensky (Russian artist, 1864-1941) Spanish Woman

During his years in Munich, Jawlensky has developed his painting style and created many mesmerizing works. Next to his artistic work, he also participated as a social and active member of the German art community.

Jawlensky together with Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter created various groups of artists such as the Neue Künstlervereinigung München and the Blaue Reiter who promoted art styles, prevailed in Europe at that time.

Jawlensky‘s private life was complicated (art historians have different opinions about his relationship with Marianne von Werefkin), but in 1922 he married Werefkin‘s maid Helene Nesnakomoff with whom he already had a son Andreas.

Style

While creating his style, Alexej was influenced by Russian religious art especially by Russian icons, which reminded him of his childhood in Russia.

young-girl-with-a-flowered-hat-alexej-von-jawlensky-1910-5ceb6762

A huge impact for him as an artist had other painters like a Fauve style painters Henri Matisse and Kees van Dongen. Their works gave him an inspiration about expressing emotions by using thick strokes of vivid colors.

Since Jawlensky painted mostly portraits, it was very important for him to analyze and convey his imagination of the human‘s heads shapes and forms.

On one of the most well known Jawlensky‘s works called “Blue cap“, all dominant colors are very vivid: red woman‘s blouse with the yellow dots, unnaturally bright pink skin, green and red background and blue hat – all colors merge altogether which shows a strong mood of the work.

blue cap

The manner to highlight the edges of the person‘s face and body by using a dark blue or black brush came from another expressionist Kees van Dongen who used it in his works in a more subtle way.

This portrait of a woman was painted around 1912, just before the First World War and was influenced by Fauve art, but also at the same time trying the new style Abstractionism, which started to be more and more popular in Europe.

This portrait by Jawlensky is unique because of its painting style collected and created from all the inspiration he could have got at that time. It was sold for 6 million dollars and now belongs to a private collection.

“Abstract Heads”

During his active working years, Alexej was following various art styles, including Cubism.

In his several series of paintings called “Abstract Heads”, which were created between 1918 and 1935, he painted abstract faces that combined horizontal and vertical lines and brightly painted blocks of pigment.

jawlensky abstract heads

The viewer can see the influence of Cubism in these works. For creating these type of artworks, Jawlensky was highly interested in Indian philosophy, especially Indian yogis, which inspired him to paint by forgetting any kind of individualism and focusing on the basic elements which make these paintings look organic and unique.

Alexej von Jawlensky died in 1941 when he was 77 years old. He is buried in the Russian Orthodox cemetery in Wiesbaden, Germany. Most of his works are kept at the Museum Wiesbaden, others are in other german museums.

In 2019 his works were exhibited in Gemeentemuseum, the Hague in the Netherlands and also the special exhibition, together with works of Marianne von Werefkin, called “Lebensmenschen” was opened on 22nd October 2019 in Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany where both artists spent years together and will last until 16th of February 2020.

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Marianne von Werefkin – Women of Expressionism

Marianne von Werefkin is a Russian-German-Swiss painter, who started to paint in the Realism style and later developed her style into Expressionism.

Background

Marianne von Werefkin was born on 10 September 1860 in Tula, Russia. She started to paint at the age of fourteen and later became a student of Ilja Rapin, one of the most well known Russian painters.  Here she is in old age, pondering imponderables.

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Since her early days, Marianne faced many challenges, which contributed to creating her personality. She was seventeen when during cleaning a gun at home she accidentally shot her right hand.

This misfortune had an impact on the rest of her life as a painter because she had to use a special tool helping her to paint. Werefkin also has more issues with health such as neuralgia and hysterical epilepsy.

Early Years

Marianne von Werefkin was strongly influenced by Russian realism, which reflected in her early works. Because of her talent to create realistic works she even got a nickname – “Russian Rembrandt“.

In 1893 she painted a “Self Portrait in a Sailor‘s Blouse” – a portrait of herself looking into the distance and holding a bunch of paintbrushes in one hand and leaned on her hip with another.

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This work was created in her family‘s Blagodat Estate in Lithuania, where she used to come to visit her father and later her brother, who owned the property and where she had her first work studio.

Moving to Munich

In 1896, together with another Russian expressionist Alexej von Jawlensky, whom she met in Russia, she moved to Munich, Germany, where she studied painting.

The Black Women, by Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), gouache on cardboard, 1910

Munich at that time was a very popular place for artists from Russia and Eastern Europe because of highly-regarded art school founded by Slovenian artist Anton Ažbe.

Unfortunately, instead of creating for herself, she focused on her friend. According to art historians, they were not married, not even a couple, so their relationship could be described only as friends, but at that time, Marianne encouraged Alexej‘s development as an artist and supported him to create. Later he became a father with the other woman whom he married and Marianne never got married or had a child.

Marianne was also known as an active member of a local artists community. She was very social and use to invite various people to her home, her salon, where happened many discussions about art and various ideas. She brought together not only artists but avant-garde writers, dancers even Russian politicians and aristocrats.

marianne von werefkin

She started to paint again after ten years in 1906 when Alexej was not a part of her life anymore and finished her first works in 1907.

Together with another famous Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, she created a Neue Künstvereinigung Munchen – an art group, which was dedicated to the Expressionism ideas.

At that time, her inspiration to create came from French post-impressionists Paul Gauguin and Louis Anquentin, also one of the most known expressionists – a Norwegian Edvard Munch.

When Marianne use to visit her family‘s Estate in Lithuania, she got the inspiration for the country‘s landscape and culture which lead her to create paintings like “The Road”, “The Family”, “City in Lithuania” or “Police Sentinel in Vilnius” (shown below).

Police Sentinel in Vilnius

Werefkin developed her painting style, which mainly consisted of vivid and dark colors. In 1910, she created a new self-portrait, which was different from painting in her early days as an artist.

This one didn‘t reflect Russian realism anymore, Marianne created her painting style influenced at that time prevailing Expressionism.

Marianne_von_Werefkin_self-portrait

The portrait is mesmerizing because of the strict look of her vivid red eyes, also red color dress and hat, yellow skin and vivid blue background and has a strong emotion, which is very specific for expressionists.

Next and Last Stop – Switzerland

Because of the First World War, Marianne von Werefkin with her friend Jawlensky moved to the neutral country Switzerland.

At first, they lived in Geneva, later in Zurich, but when Jawlensky decided to marry the mother of his child, Marianne moved to Ascona, where she lived till her death in 1938.

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Her life back then was difficult because of her living conditions – she didn‘t get enough money, so she couldn‘t paint and create as much as she wanted.

Despite her financial condition, she kept active in social life and in 1924 created an artist group “Großer Bär” which focused on discussions about art.

Exhibitions

Marianne von Werefkin‘s works as an important sign of expressionism were exhibited several times in different locations in Europe.

She together with Alexej von Jawlensky was remembered again in 2019, when the art gallery “Lenbachhaus” in Munich, Germany, where the artist spent one part of her life, created an exhibition called “Lebensmenschen”.

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This exhibition started on 22nd October and will last until the 16th of February 2020.


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Andreas Gursky – Construction Deconstruction

willy-gursky-porträt-des-kunstfotografen-andreas-gursky

Andreas Gursky is a German photographer known for his large format journalistic, digitally manipulated photographs.

His pictures where published and exhibited all around the world and his image of the Rhine river is the most expensive photograph ever sold in an auction.

Before we go backward, here’s a great video you can watch about Gursky that can whet your appetite to learn more about him.

Background

Andreas Gursky was born on 15 January 1955 in Leipzig, Germany.

It can be said, that Gursky‘s way in life was decided of circumstances: his father and grandfather both were successful commercial photographers, but Andreas turn into photography not that easily.

When Gursky was one year old, his family moved to Düsseldorf, West Germany where his father started to work at his own photo studio.

willy and andrew gursky

Despite of growing up surrounded by photo equipment, Andreas wasn‘t sure who he wanted to be in the future. According to himself, he didn‘t know what else he could do in life, so he stayed by the photography and started to study Photography at the Folkwangschule in Essen.

After graduation, at first, he had a thought work as a photojournalist, but circumstances led him to the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1980 to study further because he met Thomas Struth (pictured below), a student who already studied there and who later became also a famous photographer.

Thomas-Struth

The class Andreas joined back then, was leading by the photography masters Hilla and Bernd Becher.

The couple was known in contemporary‘s art world for their pictures of disappearing industrial architecture in the Ruhr area, Germany and for creating “Becher school ” also known as “Düsseldorf school” – a group of talented students, who later became well-known photographers.

Creating his own style

Andreas Gursky’s themes in photography are unique because he is a global thinker. Like every photographer, he wants to show his own perspective of things in the world.

Pressebild - Museum Burda

Until 1990, Andreas hasn’t used digital tools for pictures editing, but later these tools helped him to create unique images from different, but pictures with the same objects. It is an interesting paradox because he uses the technology of manipulation to show reality.

According to Gursky, he wasn’t interested in individuals, but into human species and its environment and he tried to portray it in his works.

He focused on the global systems by which society was controlled: the production of goods, the containment, and movement of people, the circulation of finance, the organization of leisure.

Bahrain I 2005 by Andreas Gursky born 1955

His look was focused on consumerism, but he said that he didn’t suggest any solutions, only the preservation of relevant things and processes in the world.

One of the objects he has chosen to show was people, working together as a social ecosystem of the world in the offices of the large companies.

While developing this topic, he created images from different places in the world where people are working in the stock markets by sitting at their desks usually with the phones in their hands. Busy office workers reflect on an always rushing, fast-changing world.

Chicago, Board of Trade II 1999 by Andreas Gursky born 1955

Andreas’ photographs are unique because of its large format. It all started from his picture he took during a holiday in Switzerland in 1984.

In this picture, he captured Klausen Pass – a colored image of the mountain and small figures of tourists going towards it.

Klausen Pass

At that time, Gursky realized that the relationship between figures and space is interesting to him.   

In his shots, he puts many small objects, for example, thousands of store goods at shelves at the supermarket or many pieces of books at one of Amazon’s warehouses in the USA.

These shots create an effect of completely fulfilled space and basically illustrate the real face of capitalism.

According to the Hayward Gallery’s director Ralph Rugoff, who exhibited Gurksy’s works retrospective in 2018, Andreas with his pictures gives the viewer space for his own thoughts, but the most important – artist doesn’t tell them what to think.

Pictures like paintings

One of Gursky’s pictures’ attributes is that his works are compared to traditional art paintings because of their compositions.

The author combines his images from a few separate pieces and creates diptychs. For example, of his pictures, he took in 1994 from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, in which the viewer can see many busy office workers.

Or diptych he created in 2001 called “99 cents” in which are portrayed store shelves full of goods.

gursky photograph

The second part of his picture is like a second half and they both together create a full impression of the captured objects.

Andreas’ images, in general, are similar to the abstract paintings because of the natural stripes in nature objects and vivid colors.

Sometimes in his pictures, there can be only one small person captured and you can see him only when you pay attention to the details.

The Rhine II

Gursky’s name came into photography’s history not only because of its merit for contemporary art, but in the money related field too.

His work named “The Rhine II“ today holds title of the most expensive in auction sold photograph.

It was sold for $4,3 million in 2011 and was unexpected for the author himself. Photographer captured one of the longest rivers in Germany – Rhine in Düsseldorf where he lives and across which he jogs almost every day.

This colored mage belongs to contemporary photography and has straight horizontal lines which separate reflecting grey sky into the river surrounded by green grass.

The famous picture was manipulated – buildings across the river were deleted from the background, so the whole view creates an impression of fully nature landscape and mesmerizes its simplicity.

Andreas Gursky official page:

https://www.andreasgursky.com/en

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Lee Jeffries – Portraits of the Homeless

lost angels

Lee Jeffries is a British street photographer, who resides near Manchester, England. He focuses on homeless people in England and all around the world.

lee jeffries photo

Lee‘s images were published in many prestigious magazines and newspapers like Time Magazine, The Independent, The Guardian, and were broadcasted on BBC, CNN news.

He has released two photo albums, and has participated in various projects.  Today we’ll be talking more about him, but first, here’s a quick video to get you acquainted with him.

Background

Lee Jeffries was born on May 6, 1971, in Manchester, England. He didn‘t grow up surrounded by photography or any other creative activity – actually more the opposite.

His uncle was an accountant with a nice house, car and a stable life, so that inspired Lee to choose a career as an accountant too.

Photography came into his life by accident, when he was already 35 years old.

At that time, he was owning a bicycle business and needed to take pictures of his bikes, so this was the first time he took the camera.

Street Photography – looking for “Lost Angels”

Jeffries’ relationship with street portraits began in 2008 when he took his camera and went out.

The main reason he went to shoot people out, was that he felt lonely inside and being surrounded by people helped to change that feeling.

According to him, the more relationships he created with homeless people, the less lonely he felt, so his photographing activity at some point was not giving something away, but take something back too.

lost angels

The first portrait he made was a girl in a sleeping bag on the street in London. She was only 18 years old and started to shout at Lee, so he felt embarrassed.

At that moment, he could have gone away, but he sat next to her and started to talk instead.

This new experience totally changed his life – he knew, that he will make more portraits of homeless people and create a different perspective of street photography.

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By making portraits of homeless persons, Lee wanted to dig a little bit deeper and get to know them at first, create a connection with them and maybe even help them to change their complicated situation.

In the beginning, Jeffries didn‘t know where his photography will lead, but his perspective was to go into photography with a socially responsible attitude.

One of the main reasons for Lee’s success while capturing homeless people is that he is not afraid of being surrounded by them.

According to him, if you respect a person no matter what is his social status, he will respect you back and that is a key of trust with which you can create a certain atmosphere for making a good portrait.

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He realizes that the opportunity to capture people didn‘t come for granted, you must put some effort and earn it.

This is why his portraits look so mesmerizing – you can see every wrinkle, hair and especially human’s eyes, which helps you to understand that we are all alive human beings.

Lee explains that the picture itself is a result of the bonding process with the strangers. He also opens about sensitivity for people, by saying that if his picture doesn‘t make him cry, it means it isn‘t good enough.

Live like a homeless person most of the time is influenced by a huge pain person struggles with, which a certain person doesn‘t realize, for example, a post-traumatic experience as a soldier.

Lee Jeffries released his first book “Lost Angels“ in 2013, where he put his portraits of homeless people, shot for five years.

lost angels 2

After 15 years of creating photographs, he thinks that photography is a journey, which doesn‘t happen immediately.

The Salvation Army project

Even photography for Jeffries is not his main activity in life, because of his unique perspective, he makes special projects too.

Next to the various auctions in which he sells his portraits and raises money for poor people, the charity organization the Swedish Salvation Army has invited Lee to create portraits for their campaign.

lee jeffries

By this campaign, they wanted to help Stockholm‘s homeless community. Lee shot ten portraits, from which the organization has chosen three and started to sell their prints of which all money went directly to the charity.

Three main pictures were very popular and were showed in the whole Sweden, so Jeffries’s idea was to create even bigger campaigns in the future for the USA or France.

Synergy

In 2016, Lee was cooperating with the French street artist Jef Aérosol – their project called “Synergy“ was exhibited in the French Art Studio in London.

During this project, Jef interpreted Lee’s pictures of his own way by painting some extra details.

“Lee Jeffries: Portraits” The Book

In 2019, Lee Jeffries released his second portraits album, which was created for ten years.

In 220 pages, the viewer could see various funny, sad, but most important – inspiring stories from Europe and the USA, illustrated by impressive author‘s pictures.

Movies

Since Lee spent a lot of time surrounded by homeless people, he filmed them too. In these videos, the viewer can see raw scenes of various people‘s daily life in the street.

Lee Jeffries is featured in our article about the top influential contemporary photographers.

Lee Jeffries official page:

https://lee-jeffries.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/LeeJeffriesphotographer/timeline

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/lee_jeffries/

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Timothy Hogan – Commercial Photography, or When Art and Commerce Collide

timothy hogan about

Timothy Hogan is an American award-winning still life photographer and Hasselblad brand ambassador.

timothy hogan fine art photographer

He works in his photo studio named “Convyr“ in Los Angeles, USA, where he shoots for various advertising campaigns and creates exclusive photo projects.

Background

Timothy Hogan was born in Santa Monica, California. He studied photography at Syracuse University and was graduated in 1998.

After graduation, he spent 12 years in New York, but since 2011 he returned to California.

When growing up, Timothy was always curious about creating things and understand different materials, so that curiosity is still very much a part of his mindset today, which led him to do what he is doing now.  Experimentation is undeniably a very big part of his workflow.

timothy hogan

Still life photography (not so still)

Timothy’s main type of photography is to shoot still life. Since he often photographs for commercials specifically, he aims to create an attractive appearance of the brand by using a compound of light and nature elements like water or fire.

timothy hogan photo

He describes himself as an observer, who analyses various nature’s material, its conditions and shapes, thinking about how he could use them to create exclusive, but a brand-related atmosphere.

One of the most popular materials Hogan uses in his photoshoots is water. He shot various cosmetics or alcohol drink pictures by using water splashes and drops.

That looks like a powerful but also playful way at the same time to create a lively atmosphere in the picture, which makes the brand look very aesthetically attractive to the viewer.

timothy hogan photograph

Other common materials Hogan uses for his still life shots are fire and sparks. These elements add some spiciness to products like alcohol drinks or fragrances and intrigues to taste or smell them.

You can also find his product shoots surrounded by various types of smokes’ compositions. It creates a mystical appearance for the brand and smoke itself looks quite intriguing.

Timothy’s work is a great example of how to present a different type of product of combining them with simple natural materials as water, fire or smoke.

During his career as a photographer, he already created commercials for well-known brands as Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Chanel, Visa or Smirnoff.

Timothy Hogan is featured in our feature article about the most influential photographers here

Importance of colors

Most of the time Hogan works in color photography. While shooting for different kinds of brands, bright colors are important, but it is important to make them look natural too.

timothy hogan advertising photography

Even if he needs to create a picture for a colorful product, Timothy also likes to choose bright colors for the background of products, for example for various types of fragrances commercials.

By using this way, the brand looks even more expressive and colors together with the brand to create a positive and lively entirety.

Rules for the perfect shot

According to Timothy, the main components which are needed for a great picture are the perfect lighting, perfect expression, mood, and the perfect composition.

By this, he doesn’t mean that the image should fit into the popular photography’s rule – rule-of-thirds, according to which, the shooting object must be in the right place, but to analyze and think how the object could find his perfect spot and then give -interesting thought for the viewer. YeeNstudioproject-1sra9vu-1024x590

The Fin project

Timothy is a huge fan of surfing, so he created a special photo project, dedicated special to craftsmen who invented the Fin on the surfing board.

the fin project

Wide or thin and sharp, big or very small, made from wood or plastic, grey or colorful – various fins of surfing boards are captured during this project, so the viewer can see a wide range of fins, compare each other.

Also, the photographer showed his creativity and imagination by creating interesting compositions of putting multiple fins into ornaments and figures, which according to a photographer, is a very strong graphic representation.

The result of this idea is very playful and amusing, but the most important thing about this project is how the surfing community was involved and the story about the Fin itself was told to the public.

fin project surf art

This project is different from the pictures Timothy usually takes because he created images by using an only camera and no special visual effects, lights or colors added.

The Fin project is a great example of creativity, it inspires to create from everything from the first sight can look very simple, not special at all and turn into interesting compositions.

Instead of photography…

In one of his interviews, Timothy told, that instead of photography, he could imagine himself being a craftsman and build things from wood.

It looks like he fulfilled his dream by creating a wooden desk and audio speakers stand which were designed and hand-built all by himself.

You can see his creatures and even buy them by visiting his official page which you can find below.

Both things have interesting designs so let’s hope Timothy will create more things from wood in the future.


Timothy Hogan’s official page:

https://www.timothy-hogan.com/index

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/timothyhogan/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/timothyhoganstudio

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Boogie – Showing The Dark Side of Street Life

Boogie (real name Vladimir Milivojevich) is a Serbian photographer based in New York.

His homeland‘s history influenced him to choose to capture the dark side of street life in his home town Belgrade, Moscow, New York, and other places.

Here he is, pictured below.

boogie photographer

Some of his images would appear to the casual observer to be quite shocking, but by using different perspectives, Boogie mostly is showing real people who live in the periphery of society and generally what kinds of lives they lead.

He had published nine photography monographs and created commercial projects for worldwide known brands like Nike, Adidas or Puma.

Background

Boogie was born in 1969 in Belgrade, Serbia. His father and grandfather were amateur photographers, so he grew up surrounded by cameras.

He got interested more seriously into photography around the ’90s during the civil war in Serbia.

This experience pushed him to focus on the darker side of street life in different places marked by many personal tragedies and are not what one might think of as particularly popular topics in street life photography.

Vladimir Milivojevich aka Boogie (26)

In 1997, he won the green card lottery (so to speak) and moved to the USA. Since then, he has been residing in Brooklyn, New York, but also keeps traveling around the world and looking for new inspiration.

In some ways, you might think of Boogie as a journalist with a camera, as he is very much interested in documenting or chronicling a certain side of life – uncovering it or exposing it for all to see, who are willing to look.

Gangs and Drugs

Boogie‘s photography style in one word could be described as fearless.

Between 2003 and 2006 he spent a lot of time with his camera in the BedStuy, Bushwick and Queensbridge neighborhoods of NYC, which are known as dangerous spots because of actively working gangs there.

Boogie-TheHundreds

While he was spending time in those areas, he captured real, non-polished moments of a wild and unsafe street life which was fulfilled with guns, violence, drugs and other illegal and dangerous stuff.

According to Boogie, experiences he had during the civil war in Serbia helped him to adapt very fast to the gangs‘ daily life and helped to capture their daily scenes and emotions.

Brazil

During his visit to Brazil cities Salvados, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the photographer kept the focus on the raw side of Brazil‘s street life.

santa_marta_group

Guns, prostitution, police, abandoned buildings – Boogie shoots the opposite of what a typical tourist could imagine about this exotic country and that is the reason why his perspective is unique and shows a wider diversity of population around the globe.

Moscow

In 2019, Boogie released his newest photography book of pictures he took in Russia‘s capital Moscow. In these urban style pictures, he documented the daily life of locals.

boogie moscow photo 2

Tough tattooed guys, “Khrushchyovkas“ (apartment buildings, started to build during former USSR leader‘s Nikita Khrushchev governance period) and Soviet monuments mark today‘s Russia which was strongly implicated of USSR‘s heritage.

Boogie opened up, saying that doing photographs in Moscow gave him a feeling of being from the same tribe as these people.

According to him, Serbs and Russians were always connected as both nations are Christian Orthodox, both always had a similar world outlook and mentality.

Belgrade

Since Boogie moved to New York, he often visited his hometown Belgrade. Born as Serbian, he knows all the corners and for him, this city is full of inspiration for unique and raw pictures.

new york drug photo

Even his shots look gloomy, you can feel the power of reality in those pictures and that is something that attracts the viewer‘s attention – everything looks just very authentic and the opposite of glamorous and romantic views.

Serbia used to be a former country of Yugoslavia and because of the political situation in the country, Boogie also captured some signs of this situation.

He had published two books of pictures he took in Belgrade. According to him, the second book named “Belgrade guide“ (2017) is much different than the first one, called “Belgrade belongs to me“ (2009).

boogie photo

The first album comprises mostly of the pictures that he took during the massive protests in the ’90s against the regime and former country‘s leader Slobodan Milošević.

Boogie described his regime as apocalyptical – people have been starving and riot police were especially rough with the protesters.

He also noticed that taking a camera along with him and going into the street helped him to be more as an observer, not a participant in that chaos, so photography helped him a lot to survive hard times his country passed through.

Commercial photography

Near wandering through various cities and publishing photo albums, Boogie also made photoshoots for advertising. He shot photo campaigns mostly for sports brands like Nike, Adidas or Puma.

puma1

Even shooting for commercials, he didn‘t renounce bold style of pictures, including even vulgar or harsh models‘ emotions and urban backgrounds or abandoned locations.

Links:

Boogie was featured here on our site:

My Top 10 Best Contemporary Photographers

Boogie‘s official page:

https://www.artcoup.com/

Boogie on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/boogiephotographer/