anton kusters – odo yakuza tokyo LIMITED EDITION (SOLD OUT)

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Anton Kusters

Odo Yakuza Tokyo

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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: 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.


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.


(the limited edition sold out on July 21, 2011)


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.


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232 Responses to “anton kusters – odo yakuza tokyo LIMITED EDITION (SOLD OUT)”

  • Anton..

    First, a very happy birthday.. you sure have made yourself an amazing birthday gift :)

    So looking forward to get my copy of this labour of photography, passion and love.. knew since a while you’d pull it off.. wasn’t wrong!

  • Anton, I was reading the conversation between you and David and stopped reading so that I could order in case I missed buying a copy! Happy birthday Anton.

    Eva, I should have known that you would order before me; you said that you would and you did!


  • ANTON,

    Happy Birthday, all the Best!
    Wow – I mean, I have seen the proof, while we met in Amsterdam and it was already a great experience.
    Now, I am waiting to get the book(s) delivered. Congratulations. You did an amazing job.
    We need to make an appointment, since – if possible – I would like to have at least one book signed :)

    I am sure this day is a great party for you. Well, well done.


  • O.k. – just finished reading the conversation; really interesting and informative, as ever: thank you Anton and David. The essay looks great; I’ve been following this essay (and Eva) on Anton’s website and I’ve been checking for the book release at least five times a day – and still Eva beat me to the draw! Damn, she’s fast!

    I’m sure that the Family will be pleased with the book Anton. Your sincerity shines through your words and photographs. Please thank your brother and Taka-san for us for all their help.

    Hope the film comes to fruition: I remember reading an interview with Tim Hetherington about a film he and Sebastian Junger had made (Restrepo) and how it had consumed all of his savings (and had took about two years to edit) but also how National Geographic had finally bought the film and made him (and probably Sebastian too) solvent again. Maybe this time around they will get involved sooner rather than later. Have a good flight to Tokyo, Anton,


  • Mike.. I’m so so sorry… NOT.. :D

  • My reading of the concept of naive realism boils down to the desire to understand everything about the processes involved in whatever is being examined. In Yakuza, Anton has unwittingly done this. I find his book making to be as important as the subject matter he has covered – taking on further colour for us readers to appreciate and experience. Further, Anton has even given us glimpses to the before-the-fact creative process in his (feeble!) posting of the proofsheets for the project. All in all a fully experiential feast for us all. To him I say: Bravo!

    David: This is a wonderful interview…maybe more should be conducted on your porch by the sea! You have a great knack for articulating questions that just seem to move around subconsciously in other people’s minds. I appreciate your joy in the stories of others, and it makes me understand a little more the whys and wherefores of your decision-making when it comes to posting essays here. Bob and a few other fans and I were discussing this very idea last night, and frankly it had all of us scratching our heads. How coincidental it would be answered here. Really, it is nothing magical, or special, or in any way superhuman; just burning desire to tell a story. So excellent, and many thanks for the insight.

    Anton: Even though I don’t know you from Adam, Happy Birthday to you and your book!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    ANTON…blah,blah,blah…I didn’t read the above…not yet
    I am a slow reader…
    I didn’t buy the book…not yet…
    you will bring it to greece and we exchange …I give you chicken,a good one or ouzo…
    the same as the other BURNIANS,SAMMY,PANOS,THODORIS…

    I will keep this for now…”life should be about going deep down rabbit holes as much as you possibly can.” the year of the rabbit…:)))

    VIVA,yes…you are DA MAN !!

    I’ll be back for the cake.


  • a civilian-mass audience

    ANTON…are you gonna celebrate your birthday…YAKUZA way;)


  • ALL

    thanks for the kind words and the birthday wishes…. this day is a happy day indeed!



  • a civilian-mass audience

    ANTON…you are DA MAN…don’t forget the cake…
    MTOMALTY…can you bring another cake…the same as MR.HARVEY’S…:)))
    just in case…

    you are a bomb
    beyond control
    always here
    for Us ALl
    what not to LOVE

  • WELL DONE anton my friend.. i remember you first telling me about it a few years ago, and beate and i watching the sopranos boxed set to better understand :o)

    great stuff.. and respect for seeing the story through, adapting and evolving.. blending what you wanted with what was possible..

    congratulations on another year alive as well.. all that jazz.

    hope to catch you on skype at some point..
    hope the family like the book.


  • buy the book
    buy the book
    buy the book
    buy the book
    buy the book
    buy the book
    buy the book

    what do u mean which book???
    the YAKUZA book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    seen it, touched it, picked it up , hold it (actually very heavy)

    buy the book
    buy the book
    buy the book

    nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! before it is too late..!!!

  • …if it was a road bicycle would not be a good deal.
    …if it was a camera wouldnt be a good deal.
    …if it was a back pack wouldnt be a good deal.
    but its not!

    it is a Photographic book and its GOOD to be HEAVY!…
    feels goooood!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    geez,you do write PANOS:))))))))))))))

    buy the YAKUZA book!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    I can’t wait to read BOBBY:)!!!

    ok,HAPPY BURN-day YAKUZA mate…

  • ANTON! :))))))

    first of all: big big congratulations are making it to your 21st birthday young man! :))))….big big birthday hugs and kisses…and yes, i cannot imagine a more beautiful birthday gift

    secondly: big big congratulatons on this gorgeous book!…i am so so happy and proud of you!…and you did it YOUR WAY….and mostly through silence and hard work and THAT IS WHAT COUNTS!…

    thirdly: so, in hours i have to run to the Apple store and drop $2,000 on an apple laptop for us so marina can take it to her fellowship,…so, i called my bank this morning to get another credit increase so i can have you, permanently, with us at home…and now, the book is mine too :))))…just bought it and waiting…

    lastly, will write more at lunch about you and the book…no time now…just wanted to let you knwo i’m here and have ordered it…

    big love and big hugs brother…


  • CIVI :))

    I PROMISE A LONG(er) response at lunch…no time…i just wanted to call the bank and make sure i could get this book and support anton :)))

    running, literally

  • anton…
    the quietness of your images,
    mixed with the tension,
    create beautiful
    with such respect…
    there are
    all around………
    happy birthday!!

  • I am one of the fortunate ten who bought Anton’s book and had it signed at LOOK3 last week (he only brought 10 of the 500 to Charlottesville). This book is a jewel, shining with beauty, truth, depth, sincerity, respect and integrity. Anton manages to ask questions rather than answer them, to open doors for the viewer rather than walk through them himself. It is all about perception not reality, for each person’s reality of the Yakuza depends on where he or she sits. This book is physically exquisite but more importantly, it is a testament to our common humanity whatever our choices or ways of being in the world.

    I remember when Anton started this project some in our then-Road Trips community questioned his ability not to be co-opted by the Yakuza, not to let them use him to promote their own agenda. Well, that is a moot point now. Anton has simply showed us what he saw and experienced of the family over these 2-3 years. His voice is his own no one else’s. Yet I feel confident that the family will be pleased because they have been treated with respect and I imagine that means the most to them. In Anton’s book we simply see their world from Anton’s perspective which is as an outsider given privy to some of the moments never before shared in public.

    Anton will make his mark with this book — and with the film and exhibits to come — but knowing Anton as I do, public accolades are not why he did this: he did it because he has a hunger to document the world and its people, especially those who are hidden and seen as less than human. For Anton Kusters is first and foremost a humanistic photographer, and a damn fine one at that. I feel honored to know him and will be forever grateful and proud that I was one of the first buyers of Odo Yakuza Toyko.

    I encourage you to be one of the first buyers too. You won’t regret it.

    in awe and admiration,

  • Happy birthday, dearest Anton! You have given yourself and us the best present ever! Now play on the beach, build sand castles, swim in the ocean and laugh with your friends. You deserve it!

    love & hugs


    Instead of “to open doors for the viewer rather than walk through them himself,” I meant to write “to open doors for the viewer as he walked through them himself.”

  • anton – is there a way of buying a signed copy from you directly – i can transfer money?
    would not need to be posted anytime soon.. bit short on cash..


    sure… just order and choose “pick up” at the little shipping cost drop down menu. then you pay $0 shipping costs… will keep it aside for you my friend…. no rush….




    thanks for the kind words my dear… as usual it was GREAT meeting you at LOOK3…. keep on rockin’!

    hugs, a

  • BOB

    waiting patiently, and thanking you already!



  • CIVI !

    ….smiles all along….


    will keep you posted if the exhibit becomes reality… keeping my fingers crossed…


  • Anton; Congratulations on your book! It’s great to see your project come to fruition! :-)

  • I like to wash,
    the dust of this world
    In the droplets of dew.

    “The ‘secret’ of their being up in the tree had continued for almost two years now. Where the thick trunk branched out near the top, the two could sit comfortably. Michiko, straddling one branch, leaned back against another. There were days when little birds came and days when the wind sang through the pine needles. Although they weren’t that high off the ground, these two little lovers felt as if they were in a completely different world, far away from the earth.”- Up in the Tree, Yasunari Kawabata

    Grief arrives upon the limbs and lives of our homes, not as ponderous weight but as small, nearly imperceptable wind and yet that wind shapes and sounds us until we realize that we are carved, like the mountain, by it’s time and tongue. The world scissors itself in a rounding way, the light seeks a way through shadow and pinhold, thread through teeth-gap’d time. This is a story about death but there can be no real story about death without beginning and ending with birth. This is a story about life pushed through the windblown rocks of death.

    In every image in this magnificent book lingers loss, the recognition that we, like the cheery blossom, that we, like the dew upon the morning blade, that we, like the silk wrapped around the urn ushing the ash of the dead toward transformation and air-soil, are not long for this place, that we in our divesting end up scattered and wide and flown. And yet, does this truth not mark us with lightness? And yet, does this truth not remember us as scattering seed? This is a story of shadow, but as Goethe reminds, from shadow comes the brightest light.

    But this story too is one of love, of companionship and fellowship. What, for me, is most remarkable about Anton’s book is not that culture of Yakutza, but the silence, the sadness, the grief, all which turn toward the essence, which is love. The love of one another and the love of their life. This is not to say that this book glamorizes Yakutza. This is not to say that this project romanticizes the pain that they and their brotherhood endures and inflicts on others. This is not to say that this is a blind view. This is to say that Anton has focused upon and discovered something beyond the typical cliches: these are men in the middle of wrestling with struggle to live amid death. IN other words, this is a story that celebrates ritual and transience in both its lyricism and it’s insight. Men, when they go off to war, are bound by something that few gather until later in life: the archicture of death. That death is our debt to life, and that at some point it is paid up by all of us.

    How small these magical details: the ribbon bowing a gift box, the light fractured through cherry blossom, the men on the beach like fish sunning from the sea, the baseball, the reflection (like Pinkhassov), the extraordinary $2 dollar bills, and the shadows, everwhere and the sadness and the love, the love for one another and above all the love for the life they know is but a temporary moment. That life shall inflict (skin by ink, knuckle to the knife, face to the scar, young men to the old) it’s eventually taking. What makes such a beautiful impace is the ‘real’ of these images. It’s hitting upon a deep sadness. That extraordinary photograph of the cigarette burning…whose cigarette?…the men…anton’s…..our own….an extraordinary insight in that one photograph: filling the picture by NOT SHOWING….that is zen and that is Basho and that is life: space carved out by what is not there….

    and Anton’s extraordinary color palatte…green, and all its variations….too many pictures I love in this series to count out, but i just want to say that this is really, to me, about transformation…from youth through the mystery of shadow and change toward the fullness of death….our life’s accountant…

    and a word about BOOKS…books as objects and books as making…as a photograher who has made hand-made books married to another photographer who has made hand-made books, i celebrate the book…all, without the object, is just accounting…there is nothing, for me, more real, than the an object….and though i have made them too, i’m so happy that you have taken this out into the world…and that is something i am so happy about…the real step, the important step…

    and one last thing: making involves being solitary….sadness…frustration…extraordinary hard work….to make something, means sitting in a room and working…and the internet, unfortunately, often does not convey this…to make a book, one must work their ass off…must sit alone and think and edit and put the work together…to struggle….internet sometimes makes the photoworld glamorous (bullshit), sometmes makes the worl easy (bullshit)…it is not…it is about hard work, solitary work…putting up…

    Anton has worked on this tirelessly…without preaching…without connections…without the false bravado and nonsense…he birthed this because he worked incredibly hard, without fanfare, without attention…

    that is work…that is what i am most proud of him for….

    and in this sense, Yakuza book, to me, is really about the process of making something…of spending all those hours and days and years working, even without recognition, to sing this life what it is….

    and for that Anton, i love and respect you…as photographer and as friend…

    I am so very proud of you and so very happy for you….i cannot articulate this properly…

    in a week of great grief, this is a day that has made me happy:

    congratulations brother! :)))


  • anton, congrats. what an accomplishment!
    wish you the best.

    ps happy birthday

  • anton – will contact you offline about it..
    cannot see a pick-up postal option?!

  • Okay most expensive book I’ve bought in a while (that damn euro!) so it better be worth it! :):) I’m 110% sure it will be. Congrats Anton and happy birthday. Bummed I couldn’t make it to LOOK and meet you and everyone else in person but such is the burden of having a toddler and a working wife… (and Charlottesville very expensive to get to from the west coast).

    Anyway, you know how much I like this work…. words escaping me right now. Send the book!



  • Anton…
    Congratulations and a very happy birthday!
    A finished project at least book wise that must be such a great sensation. Low on mobile battery!
    Anyway hoping to meet you and David and hear more about the whole project – photos and book printing.
    Once again HAPPY BIRTHDAY


    click on the shipping $ amount that is displayed it should be a drop down menu with two options, one shipping, one pickup… work for you?


  • “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.”

    These are astounding pictures. They are poetry. But here’s the thing. Anton’s statement above is disingenuous. Attention is always political. It is never nonjudgmental. The Psalmists had it right when they warned of gazing on idols that “you become what you behold.” Gobsmacking gorgeous photos like these inevitably end up beautifying crime, sanctifying Alpha males, glorifying female objects. I wish Anton would go deeper into his own soul, not brush off his responsibility as an observer, and show us pictures taken from inside the rabbit hole where he acts the part of the vulnerable rabbit. Instead he’s tattooed himself as a dragon.

    Art at the level of his practice is a tremendous responsibility.

  • slummingangel!

    Thanks for your input! very interesting and well put.

    Of course, you are right… as I stated before, I can only look with my own eyes… therefore with my own opinion/character/upbringing/politics or whatever you wish to call it…. and these images are what those eyes see.

    But contrary to what you state, attention can surely be non-judgemental. Attention is always biased, of course (and that is exactly what I am saying), but always judgemental? that sounds a little like a blanket statement to me… so I would have to disagree with you on that.

    Of course, my inevitable “biased” looking is only backed up by the person/character I am, and the person I say I am, and one would have to meet me and talk to me and get to know me, and even then one could only be reasonably sure that my intentions are what i state they are…

    Also, if the making of a good image comes off to you as glorifying, then there is nothing I can do to change your mind… personally I would never equate “beautiful images” with “beautifying what is depicted in those images”, I personally think that is quite a leap of faith. I’d be negating a huge lump of artists right there.

    Whatever the case, my responsibility is indeed my cross to bear.. but beholding is most definitely not part of that.

    Are you based in Europe? I think this a fascinating viewpoint which I’d love to discuss further, but I find the medium of writing too limited for that… coffee?


  • Bob..

    You write about grief and loss and sadness that comes through in every picture.. that’s interesting.. death of course is there, but what I feel most strongly here is POWER. Underlying everywhere, throughout the whole essay. Strong. Power even in death. Not obvious, as a statement, the kind of picture that says: look at me, this is what I want to say. But as something much more subtle. Mystery. It makes me want to back up with my shoulders to a wall, so I know that at least from that side I’m covered.

    And a line of fear…

  • Eva, “Mike.. I’m so so sorry… NOT.. :D” … but Eva, I bought the book for you! … NOT! Laughing Eva, I’ll beat you to the movie.



    Happy Birth Day, my friend. May you enjoy many more revolutions around the sun.

    I finally had a chance last night to sit down with your book and spend some time with it – it is indeed a wonderful work. You have every reason to be very proud.

    Hope that our paths cross again soon,


  • Fascinating photos. It’s a great story. I find it fascinating how humans create their own little microcosms, with their own rules and customs, then fight to find a place within them. You’ve told an interesting story about these folks.

  • Eva :)

    i see the opposite…the APPEARANCE of power, isn’t power…here, i see fragility everywhere…disappearance (reflection, shadows, vignettes, refraction) everywhere…and the fight against that (tatoo: permanent, baseball by the sea: youth retained,) loss, against ‘weakness’…but it is an unwinable fight….and ultimately it isn’t about power but about acceptance of loss…that’s what i read, accepatance, eventually, of loss…but I see this as ANTON’S lyricism and Anton’s exmotional experience…quite the opposite of what Slummingangel is suggestion, or you…..Yakutza appears to be ‘powerful’ (all that macho/samurai stuff) and yet they are not invulnerable…but like the rest….and that melancholy here, i see as Anton’s ‘revelation’…his own ‘transformation’…as i said, the book seems to me less about Yakutza, than Anton’s trasnformation, his change from young man (with joy/hope) to a man who makes because he knows he must, and that is part of lyricism…..

    but i see so much sadness (not to be confused with depression) in the poetry of these pictures….sadness is (for me) life affirming…it’s just the recognition that all is fragrantly transcient….that magnificent image of the Yakutza playing baseball (brilliant moment) reinforces that….

    i don’t fear threatened at all, i see all their fragility, even in the hunking shadows…

    by the way, i’ve showed the above essay to 5 japanese students today, one of whom has an association (via family in southern japan)….and of whose father owns a fishing company and deals….all thought the pictures reflected this point: “twilight”…i smiled, exactly :)))

    make sense….:)))

    be we all see the way we are, nothing more ;)

  • MIKE R, EVA,

    now that would be a fascinating race to watch….


  • Andrew B.,

    Yes ‘t was great meeting you at LOOK3 too… and of course very glad you bought the book… and that you like it! But of course one could safely assume that you bought it because you liked it ;-)


  • btw, this NOT to say that Yakutza isn’t THREATENING OR POWERFUL…they surely all…i’m talking about the photographs and Anton’s view….it is possible to make self-reflective work posed against the world of others…anyway, trying to show others humanity, even amid a life of sometimes inhumanity toward others, IS for me the most important thing…how else will we ever understand both cruelty and compassion if we don’t see ourselves in others…and that is part of what is strong, for me, about the book…it is less about yakutza then what anton has ‘felt’ and ‘seen’ behind the cloth and cliche of that world…hope that makes sense…as i am not trying to devalue or limit what they do, but trying to express the emotion of the work and what, for me, drives it’s sensibility….

  • Bob.. I’m out the door, dinner with friends, so just short:

    not SEE.. FEEL.. if we talk about seeing, then yes, but the feel is so different from the look here to me.

    Mike.. ok.. you try :)

  • JIM,

    It’s very weird but you were one of the few people I was curious about to know your opinion… honestly.

    It is indeed one big under-the-skin struggle of survival in the modern world more than anything else. Well put.

    cheers, a

  • Eva :)))

    out the door here, to, to buy that computer…

    but i FEEL sadness here too…i SEE and FEEL it…, unless you’re talking about the confidence of the picture taking (i see/feel that)….anyway, this will have to wait for another time and coffee ;)))

    i feel (physically) what it is i see…so, maybe that explains my reaction…or maybe it’s just the water ;))…


  • Anton: u didn’t want to know what i thought? ;)))))))))))))))))))))))

    Jim: very well said :))))))))


    And big massively big congratulations on the book, that’s an achievement to be real proud of.

    Sorry, very tired and out of the loop here on the last 24hrs or so (gee, things move fast around here…I like that!). Must get some work done. Will read back through the comments later if I get enough done. Busy day today, and two straight days of hard work this weekend, too.

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