Yasser Booley: Out from behind the lens (Part 2)

Among other projects, photographer Yasser Booley has covered gangs in the infamous Pollsmoor prison with Ross Kemp and dying fishing communities with the WWF.

Yasser Booley is like a Swiss army knife – easily able to apply his skills to a myriad of situations. His photography fits into many different arenas: fine art, photojournalism, portraiture and documentary. Booley developed a love for photography at the age of 17 after his father gave him a Japanese-made Yashica FSD.

Booley has since built an impressive, ever-expanding repertoire of work with big names like Ross Kemp of “Ross Kemp on Gangs” seeking out his services, and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) calling on him to shoot a documentary.

“It’s a series of two documentaries on the fishermen in Kleinmond,” says Booley. The WWF has employed Booley to shoot footage and engage with local fishermen in the Kleinmond area. The hope is to use the recent change in fishing policy to engage with the local fishermen on their trade, their impact on the environment and their ability to make a decent living. 

What is undoubtedly one of Booley’s most fascinating jobs is his work for Kemp on the gangs in Cape Town’s townships and prisons. “I was working as a fixer,” he says. Booley’s job was crawling into “drug dens” and in a sense casting the right characters for Kemp’s Cape Town special. Fixing for the show also meant Booley had to spend a lot of time in the notoriously gang-ridden Pollsmoor prison.

“The prison was another level. The walls permeate a…” Booley’s words trail off as he recalls his experience of Pollsmoor. Kemp’s documentary on the notorious prison gang leader John Mongrel and the numbers gang in the prison was a smash hit. The shock factor made it spread like wildfire.

Booley is also the founder and publisher behind Mierkat, an online photo magazine. He has also published a collaborative project called Bridge. “For me it was a soul-feeding project, an artistic endeavour of sorts,” he says.

To put the edition together, he sent a brief to friends across the world, asking them to send photos under the theme of “infrastructure”. The end result was a thick, print-on-demand magazine with photographs of people and places from across the world. Booley loved it, “It was my own,” he says. 

Watch part one of the interview, in which Booley recalls photographing the streets on the day of Chris Hani's memorial. See more of Yasser Booley's photographs in our gallery of his images.

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