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Anton Kusters

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Free beer!    No sorry, free portfolio reviews

 

It is past midnight.. It is late and it smells late..I leave for France in the afternoon tomorrow…I have not packed, nor have I ever learned to pack for any trip in all these years. Always get it wrong. Working on it. I am headed for four days of Magnum meeting followed by four days of Les Rencontres d’Arles arguably one of the most important international photography assemblages. After days of biz meeting with Magnum I am sure many would cut both ears off instead of one as did VanGogh in this fair charming south of France town.

Yet I always go. Never missed an annual gathering of the tribe since 1993 when I became a Magnum nominee and forever changed my life. I have already been to two photo fests this spring, am burned out on the social scene, and would not go to one now were Magnum not meeting on this 65th year in this historic Arles. The vibes in Arles buzz in way as in no other place.

My little book from 1967, Tell It Like It Is,  gets its two minutes of fame along with 10 other Magnum photographers who are participating on a presentation called “First Time”. Addressing the evening audience on July 3 with their first work, their first important work. The work that took them forward. For me this is bracketed with my recent Rio novella (based on a true story) entering the prestigious Library Actes Sud and a book signing at Les Rencontres. So my “first time” and my most recent. All the while surrounded by terrific exhibitions and evening presentations.

Burn will also have a stand where we will do free (buy me a beer) portfolio reviews. “We” being the entire Burn staff: Anton Kusters, Diego Orlando, Eva-Maria Kunz, Candy Pilar Godoy and Claudia Paladini. I do not think we have EVER had all of us together in one place. We work by remote control. By Skype. By text message (should be illegal) and by brain debilitating email. Fate has brought us all together. We are electric. On fire. BurnMagazine, BurnBooks, and BurnUniversity are all happening. Details on all will follow after the Burn gang meets after the Magnum meeting.

It all blends anyway. Magnum’s new website may unleash a whole new Magnum. For sure exciting times. Times to reinvent, times to invent, times to push push the proverbial envelope just as far as we can without losing the thing Magnum members care about the most. A place in history. A seat at the table. Burn seeks to help find new talent and celebrate the icons who may be a beacon for those forging ahead with oftentimes a wrinkled map.

If you are anywhere near the south of France June 3-8 please stop by. If you are on the other side of the world and have a lot of miles to cash in, now is the time. Everyone in this Burn audience knows well they have input in what goes on around here. Either with their voice or their pictures. Burn eliminates a lot of excuses. If you have something to say, you can say it right here and you are reaching an impressive cross section of our craft. Both the photographers and the editors and a lot of well versed serious photographer who choose photography as an avocation, rather than as a business.

I only write tonight and rambled this long to avoid the inevitable packing I must do. So let me get to it. Wishing all of you a pleasant morning/evening and ask you to stay tuned as I report from Arles in the week upcoming to flow alongside our EPF finalists.

-dah-

 

Williston, North Dakota, from the Magnum project Looking For America, May 2012

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TedxEutropolis - Anton Kusters - Photographing the Yakuza

Anton (Hasselt, BE) is a photographer and fond of long term projects. At least, he thinks he is. His very first project: a look inside a Japanese Yakuza crime family changed his life. Or maybe it did not change it. Or maybe a just little. Or maybe a lot. In his talk he will focus on hanging in there, common sense, publishing independently, press attention, feeling lucky, and working hard. It will be About finding out what's important. And being scared. And growing up. And making a few images along the way. Oh, and about serendipity. You know, those little moments when you suddenly realize that things are falling into place. In fact he will talk about a lot of things and show us some remarkable pictures as well. More information at tedxeutropolis.eu AboutTEDx, x = independently organized event: In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.*
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December 17, 2008

who is this??

_DSC2862

the man is a teddy bear….a family man…he would much rather talk about his teenage daughter Nina and French wife Sophie than about photography…honesty is his best policy…. you never never have to worry about what he “really thinks”…i live in Brooklyn…..but, Bruce Gilden is Brooklyn….

many think Bruce “attacks”…i do not know this for sure, but i am imagining Bruce has had a least one of his subjects “attack back”…but, Bruce and i are as much on the “same page” as anyone i know in Magnum …we surely have opposite personalities and ways of working, yet we have exactly the same “code” for life regarding fairness, transparency, and family….

Bruce is now working on a project on foreclosures in the U.S….a hardball look at one of the primary reasons for the financial collapse in America and the folks who “lost it all”…his new Magnum in Motion digs in deep and gives us a vision of a side of this country that most ignore…when Bruce went to Florida for the opening series on foreclosures, he showed us a certain kind of sympathy that i just do not recall in his previous work…

my first impression of Bruce came with his book on “Coney Island”…then “Haiti”, then “Go”….i thought Bruce harsh , but irresistibly fascinating…and funny…i can never take my eyes off of Bruce’s pictures even though i might feel a bit guilty for “intruding”, even as the viewer….if Bruce appears somewhat cynical with his work , when you know him personally , he is more “realist” than cynic….there is a difference…..the man’s work reveals a part of his personality, but not all…there is a straight up kindness in Bruce Gilden..and nobody but nobody has a better sense of humor…

please keep your eye out for Bruce’s continued work with foreclosures….anybody can smell a book in the making…

i am only hoping that i do not become one of his subjects…..

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December 15, 2008

teaser…..

Burn3
nothing happens until it happens , but things are happening…cracking, buzzing, and yes burning bright…we will launch soonest a working model of BURN magazine (or journal or??)….the house will not be finished…we still need to  get in the wiring and plumbing and it will be a long time before all the furniture is chosen and the interior is decorated and we all feel “at home”…but, at least you will have a sense of it….and you will have a “place at the table”….

i must right now thank Anton Kusters for his tireless efforts working on design and function…the boy flew all the way from Brussels to spend four days here sleeping on my floor…..in the next sleeping bag was Tom Hyde and tossing and turning on the sofa was Chris Bickford…my place looked like a homeless shelter rather than a home for a  wellspring of  ideas…reminiscent of my grad school days or some version of a camping out road trip….

all i can say is that i was totally humbled by all of the hard work from Tom Hyde(flew from Seattle), Eric Espinosa  (flew from Cincinnati), Erica McDonald, Andrew Sullivan, David McGowan, and Andrew Owen from Look3..and i will never forget Kelly Lynn James who gets total credit for suggesting BURN as a title…many  thanks to all of you who wrote, phoned in, and sent constructive emails..but, it ain’t over yet….

today and tomorrow i must attend our Magnum board meeting…our winter interim gathering of the tribe…who would have ever thought i would be on any “board”, but well life has its twists…i might be able to get an interesting post out of it , but in the meantime all of you will have time to chew on this…..

oh yes, if you are in New York, we have our annual Magnum book signing at Aperture tonight…please join us…

back soonest…..

 

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Anton Kusters

Odo Yakuza Tokyo

play this essay

Below is an excerpt of my conversation with Anton Kusters, talking about the birth of his first book. We are sitting on my front porch during a beautiful sunrise. Somehow appropriate. Even more appropriate is that today is Anton’s birthday.

-DAH

DAH: Well, the bottom line is, Anton, you have your first book… Tell me, a first book is comparable to what?

AK: It’s… It feels like I actually did something for the first time. I mean, it’s not that the book was more work than the project itself, but… it does feel like I took a step in some way, like a kind of achievement in some way, for myself, personally. It really feels like a personal victory. And whatever that victory, that achievement, will mean to the outside world, I would almost say, that is out of my hands. I mean that in the best possible way. I love seeing cutting my book “loose” into the world, let it go, beyond my control.

DAH: So… Validation?

AK: Validation… a little bit a sense of pride deep down inside… that I could actually pull something off, because for some reason, it always feels like nothing is really complete, or at least this project could not be complete, without the validation of a physical object, like a book, an exhibition… like Massimo Vitali said at LOOK3 a couple of days ago… “I’m looking at the picture as that unique physical object, impossible to see separate from the plexi it is printed on”

DAH: …Yes… I don’t know if everybody feels that way…. I certainly feel that way also, if there’s no physical object then there is nothing, actually.

AK: Yes

DAH: There’s instruction, there’s information, it’s up there on the screen, but it’s meaningless without the physical object…

AK: … things remain fleeting until something physical is made.

DAH: and even though you reach fewer people, it doesn’t matter –

AK: Yes… You reach so many less people… I mean, the internet is like multiple, you reach multiples of the audience of the book… but… I think the feeling it will never change as to what it must have been before the internet… it must be still exactly the same, that kind of feeling… the internet adds to it, but the feeling of selling the book, making the book, is… is something… is a different category. at least it feels like that. And seeing friends and strangers, complete strangers, hold that book, and look at them while they are looking at the book. that’s the thing that completes the circle for me.

DAH: You don’t see that on the internet, you don’t see that with an international magazine either… occasionally you do by accident, at the airport you see somebody looking through one of your articles, and of course they flip right through it.

[laughs]

Let me go back on a couple of basic things: so… it’s fun to have a book out there.

AK: Absolutely.

DAH: I remember, Sam Abell said one time, to me, “David, when you do your first book, life will change”. And he was right about that: after your first book, life does change.

AK: Yea… I feel it does… I mean, I don’t know, I obviously it’s too soon to say because it’s only hitting the stands right now, I mean “the stand”, singular, being here on burn, so I don’t know what the actual impact will -

DAH: – Oh I predict that, I think this book will, I think this, your limited edition of 500 copies, of a very well priced book and a very high quality book, and a very heart felt… done book, I think that this book will sell out in less than two weeks. That’s my prediction. I think it’ll be gone in ten days. Something like that, I really think that.

I think that people will, people will feel that this is a one of a kind object, as you described, there are people who get more out of photography than seeing, to flick a page, or even on burn or anything, anything that’s online, and will go for that physical object. and they’ll see it the same way that they saw Alec Soth’s “Sleeping by the Mississippi”, and they’ll want to be one of the ones to have an original, first edition, from the first five hundred.

AK: Yea… and it’s, it’s almost like I wish there was this tactile… extension to the internet where you could make people reach into the screen and pick up the book to be able to feel it, that they can feel what the object is like, because I feel that that’s such an important aspect.

DAH: Your book is a physical object, it’s a beautifully done physical object, and the printing and the binding and the making of this book are clear, and speak to the subject… So tell us a little bit about… the making of the book in relationship to the subject of the book.

AK: That’s of course pretty crucial, as I regard the book as an integral object of what the project is about… I mean, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked at a printer a long time ago, and that opened a whole new world to me back then. But it wasn’t until last year that I realized was using all that knowledge for this book.

I completely did the process all by myself, I designed the book, I found the right papers and the right printer, prepared for print, went to press, and oversaw the binding…. I learned obviously a lot during the process, but… it’s such a fun thing to do, it’s a lot of work, you gotta follow up everything personally, but you’re basically taking up the role of, of…producer

DAH: OK, so we’ve covered the thrill of having the book… and the physical production of the book. But I think the word of mouth on the physicality of this book will quickly get out there, and I think that, you and I are of like mind of what Burn does, and our basic philosophy is a quality one.

AK: Yes… whatever the case, quality comes first, and that’s why I was so happy that you were willing to endorse and write the foreword for the book, because I knew that you would never, ever, even as a close personal friend, you would not do that if you wouldn’t be very sure about the quality of the work.

DAH: No, I would not do that. Of course I’m expecting a hell of a kickback from this book, I’m expecting a lot of money into my my bank account [laughing]

The thing is… photographers do want to do books, and I think everybody knows, that books are not how we make money, but you will, even if this book is a raging success, you won’t be paying your home bills with this book, no matter how successful this is….

AK: I might break even on some aspect of the printing, and I’d be really really happy if that happened, but I’m pretty sure I can forget about trying to pay for all the trips I took.

DAH: Now tell me a little bit about how the subject of your book.  Any way you look at it, is going to be controversial, inside Japan, outside Japan, all around the town. I mean, you’ve turned into a physical object of photography, a crime organization. So. justify that for me please.

AK: Justify…

DAH: I mean, don’t justify it for me, because I understand it…. Justify it to those who might be reading this.

AK: I think it goes back to the fact that I’ve always taken aback by… prejudice. I’ve always been taken, really taken aback by blanket statements, I’m taken aback by the judging of people and things… Personally, I’ve always asked questions instead, being inquisitive, at least in my mind ask questions, trying to understand things…

I do not want to be a judge in my photography. I want to be a witness in my photography. A faithful witness of my own vision. A vision which I know is shaped and skewed by my upbringing and my life’s experiences.

I guess that’s why the Yakuza project actually quickly turned into something different than I expected, I started to feel that it’s a way of life more than anything else… and that’s where I latched on. The bad part or the good part for that matter, very quickly became irrelevant after that. The subtle shades of grey are the key.

Who am I… can it ever be my right to say about someone that he is “bad”? about anyone?

DAH: So your essay, your book is, how would you describe what it is in relationship to a crime organization? is it a revelation, is it an exposé, is it a behind-the-scenes? what is it exactly? what are you telling us with this book?

AK: Well… that’s a good question. I might have to find that one out as we go along, because I actually just want to show, I think, basically what I just said, I started feeling that that Yakuza is many shades of grey, and not simple black vs white.

DAH: so is that your, your…mission?.

AK: It’s the subtlety of the story that hit me, I think it would be kind of easy, or cheap, in a way, to show the Yakuza and what they do, instead of what they are, because I would, in a way, stereotype them, and that is something I don’t want to ever do to anybody.

DAH: yeah… do you want me to get you another coffee?

AK: yes, sure.

DAH: you drinking it black?

AK: as always

DAH: OK. Here, think about this question: what do you think the Yakuza are going to think about this book? What are they thinking that this book is? You’re thinking that it’s a revelation of some sort, what do they think it is? Everyone wants their thing out of it.

[DAH gets a cup of coffee]

AK: Interesting question… The thing is, I think, and I have the feeling, that they want to have, kind of a chronicle of their family, of sorts, a chronicle of what they are about.

DAH: When I look at the pictures, I  don’t see them doing anything bad… If I weren’t reading about the Yakuza, or know about the Yakuza, your pictures here do require text, and context, which, I think, only adds to the texture and to the feel of these photographs. Is that correct? They seem here to appear as traditional Japanese businessmen.

AK: Yeah… Though you can’t really misinterpret the tattoos, covert training camps, prostitutes and severed fingers.

DAH: So aside from the fact that people who buy this book are going to receive a physical object, and a lot of visual stimulation, on a topic that you have decided was worth photographing, what do you, what do you think that people will get out of this book, or should get out of this book, besides the fine object aspect of the book? Because it is a documentary. it is not a conceptual thing.

AK: Actually, I would like to describe this as a conceptual documentary, because I have no intent, to tell the truth, but rather I have the intent of telling the Yakuza story as I personally experienced it, me, Anton Kusters, the person and character that I am, with all my flaws and shortcomings, and I will most probably see things in a completely different way and therefore be sensitive to, and concentrate on, the things that strike me or touch me… the shades of grey i see, the realization that being Yakuza is a way of life more than anything else. I hope others will see that too.

DAH: So in that sense you are being very documentary, mission oriented documentary. In that sense.

AK: Yeah. in that sense. I could even consider that a mission in life in general.

DAH: I know exactly where you stand on this. Personally, for me, I find any topic interesting, if a someone, if a photographer, if a writer, or a film maker is telling me that they are interested in whatever the topic is, whether it’s the sinking of the Titanic, as a piece of history, or Restrepo, a war story by Tim Hetherington, or your story on the Yakuza. I don’t really care, I mean, somebody who is a storyteller, or a visual artist, if they have decided that they’re going to do this particular thing…. i’m not ranking subject matter by some subject matter being more important, or right, than others. It becomes important by the fact that this particular storyteller is going to tell it.

AK: Yep. About Tim…. I met Tim only a couple of times, and the last time we talked at length about the Yakuza project, which was then only halfway, and he was the one who also told me, like you had always told me too, David, because there was one particular picture, when he saw that one he stopped in his tracks and said “this is the one” and that was the picture of the empty table with empty glasses and cups and a burning cigarette and the two empty chairs, the full ash tray, and he said “right there, that’s the kind of image, that’s the image you have to have in there, because there you are saying that you are personally telling that story that is your story, and that you are not just ‘covering’ the Yakuza”… and I hope I have taken that to heart.

DAH: well I think there is no doubt that you’ve done that. The only thing left I wanted to ask you is… you will now probably spend the next year working on the film, on the same topic.

AK: I hope that works out, yes. There is… we’re starting, my brother Malik and I are starting to, because obviously film is way more complex than photography from a production point of view, my brother will be doing sound, I will be doing video, the moving image…. I hope that works out… we’ve got a good story. And the book, offering the book to the Yakuza bosses now, tomorrow I’ll be flying over to Tokyo to, you know, present the book to them, give copies as a gift, which will hopefully open gates.

But again, this will be way more complex, also financially… so, I will be using the potential success of the book as a gauge for myself, if it’s viable to continue on that path or not. But I obviously feel I should do it no matter what. so I hope it will work out.

On the other hand, photographing daisies is great fun too.

Buy the book here on BURN:

Buy Now

Bio:
Anton was born in Belgium. He grew up in Australia, Saudi Arabia and Belgium, and has been visiting Japan ever since his brother moved there a decade ago. The long term YAKUZA project started out three years ago, and the first major step now has been taken with the book “ODO YAKUZA TOKYO”.
Anton feels that life should be about going deep down rabbit holes as much as you possibly can.

Related links:

www.antonkusters.com

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Friday’s links..First of all, huge congratulations to Darcy Padilla for receiving the W. Eugene Smith 2010 grant!

Articles - NYT: Darcy Padilla Wins W. Eugene Smith Grant (NYT Lens: October 2010) | Related from New Yorker

Photographers - Darcy Padilla

Features and Essays - Lynsey Addario: As Afghanistan Turns (NYT Magazine: October 2010) Afghanistan’s first TV soap opera

Noor photographers Greene and Bonet have been in Haiti…

Features and Essays - Stanley Greene: Nightmare Republic (NOOR: October 2010) Haiti

Features and Essays - Pep Bonet: Hospice (NOOR: October 2010) Haiti

Features and Essays - Brian Sokol: Fighting the Naxals: India’s Enduring War (TIME: October 2010)

Features and Essays – Adam Dean: A Ghost Town in China (NYT: October 2010)

Features and Essays - David Walter Banks: The Collapse of a Community Bank (TIME: October 2010)

Sean Gallagher got in touch about a new interactive website featuring his Pulitzer Center work on China’s wetlands…

ProjectsThreatened Waters

Related…

Features and Essays - Sean Gallagher: Education In The Mangroves (Vimeo: 2010)

Dean C.K. Cox’s work on Eurasianet.org….

Kyrgyzstan: Protests as Party Questions Result (Eurasianet.org: 2010)

Heightened Security, Calm Kyrgyz Elections in Osh (Eurasianet.org: 2010)

Kyrgyzstan: Internal Migrants Lack Voting Papers (Eurasianet.org: 2010)

Articles – Guardian: Nadav Kander’s Yangtze photographs show a people sold down the river (Guardian: October 2010)

Articles - Guardian: Featured photojournalist: Ramon Espinosa (Guardian: October 2010)

Interviews - Amanda Rivkin (Fortnighthjournal.com: October 2010)

ServicesArlo : they make websites

Twitter - Aga Luczakowska

Twitter - Anton Kusters

AwardsCzech Press Photo

Articles - NYT: Picturing the Crisis (NYT: October 2010)

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