In Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, was born in 1960, the first nucleus of what would become the largest gang in the country, now spread throughout the country: the Mongrel Mob. The gang, initially formed by young people of European origin, has expanded to include Maori and Polynesians, although it has the appearance of a band of Nazi bikers: their symbols are a swastika and a British Bulldog wearing a German Stahlhelm, and supposedly is an image intended to offend as it is a British Bulldog wearing the helmet. Mongrel Mob colours are predominantly red and black and the members wear red bandanas, show off swastikas on their jackets, have a tattooed face. The patch with their symbol is worn on the back of “patched members”: those considered ‘loyal’ and “trustworthy” enough to be in the gang. This patch will also be tattooed on the member’s body. Mob members are known for their tattooed faces and red bandannas.
The members of the band come mainly from disadvantaged families, and find a strong sense of belonging within the group, which is part of organized crime, with activities that include drug trafficking, armed robbery and prostitution exploitation. The gang’s criminal reputation is as terrifying as the outer appearance of its members. New Zealand photographer Jono Rotman has made many portraits of Mongrel Mob members over eight years, gaining their confidence because, as he said in an interview: “Basically, more they realized that I was honest, more they understood that I wanted to produce something more complex than a cultural postcard, “. Jono Rotman was born in Wellington, New Zealand, but now lives in New York. He had already performed photographic work in prisons and psychiatric institutions.