This was my second trip to Kingston, Jamaica. I developed a love/hate relationship with the city–it’s definitely not a city where you can go out and make friends. I had shit thrown at me when I was outside by myself taking pictures. But of course, hanging out with the right people changes all that.
I was driving around Tivoli Gardens one day with two locals and the police pulled us over at a checkpoint, pointing their M-16s at the car. The guy who was driving the car started arguing with the cop, so they arrested him and took him to the station. It took all evening to get him out, after they arranged a court date for him, all for no reason at all.
There is no normal police presence in the city, the kind that would make you feel safe. The only time you see cops is when there are five of them piled on a jeep with their assault rifles. But the firepower of gangs in Kingston rivals that of police. Of course you can’t see their guns in plain sight because of the recent crackdown (also because if police catch you with a gun, in a majority of cases they just kill you, they don’t bother making an arrest), but they are always nearby and ready to use. I spent some time with some serious gangsters, and they were the most normal people I met there. The fact that they allowed me to take pictures of them with guns meant huge respect and trust. And the adrenalin rush was great. I can’t really talk about everything that went on, but here are the pictures.
And I just want to make it clear, for me, it’s not all just about taking pictures. It’s also forming the relationships with people, feeling the vibe. Moments like this I will remember for the rest of my life, and I can picture myself telling these stories to my grandchildren when I’m 90 years old.
Boogie is a Brooklyn-based photojournalist. Born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia, he began documenting rebellion and unrest during the civil war that ravaged his country during the 1990s.