The Mighty Mongrel Mob of Aotearoa New Zealand are mythologised for extreme violence, and they have long been cast as the nation’s monsters. In layers of apparent contradictions, their icon is the British bulldog and they wear Nazi symbols, while their members are largely Māori. The Mongrel Mob’s symbols arose as both a goading response to a history of colonial subjugation of Māori, and a proclamation of loathing for the largely Pākehā (white, European) state.

Mongrelism offers a communion with this impenetrable fraternity. Monumental portraits illustrate Mob members’ assertion of membership and pride in their identity. Artifact studies and brutal first person narratives are drawn from the Mob corpus, mirroring the landscape studies that bare the brooding environments where Mob members live. Mongrelism examines how the gang brands itself to itself to uphold its hierarchy and history, and finds core values usually lauded by society: perseverance, resilience, and loyalty.

Mongrelism is neither a history nor an ethnographic study. Rotman says he has “felt the weight of precedence of photography depicting people seen as ‘other’” and Mongrelism works to address photography’s historical entitlement of ‘taking’ images. Since beginning the work in 2007, he has maintained transparency and consultation with the subjects, they have been involved in the editing process, exhibitions and are consulted about all use of the work. The result is a powerful body of work where the subjects, Rotman and the images maintain a fluid and equal relationship. Consequently, the images have become a part of Mob history and their visual mythology.

Installation Views & Selected Media

Mongrelism Book


2017 / Prix du Livre Images Vevey / Vevey, Switzerland
2016 / Mongrel Mob Portraits / Gow Langsford Gallery / Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand
2015 / Mongrel Mob Portraits / City Gallery / Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
2015 / Personalities: Fantasy and Identity in Photography and New Media / Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Desert, USA
2014 / Mongrel Mob / Gow Langsford Gallery / Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

All work © Jono Rotman.