anton kusters – sugar


Anton Kusters


This is a story about Birgit, a six year old sweet kiddo. She’s been diagnosed with diabetes about a year ago. Incurable. This story is about how, through her, I myself am being confronted with the fact that her illness is much more of an issue to me than it is to her. She taught me a lesson there… The things that are on top of a kid’s list, should in fact be on top of anyone’s list:

Life is about playing with friends and family and having fun as much as you possibly can…

These intimate, close images, are freeze-frames out of her daily life. Random. Lots of different moments. Almost no visual context. Bare essentials. More about feeling the moment than looking at the moment.



There is no beginning and no end. A collection without order. You’ll recognise inside, outside, darkness, light, a bike, a bed or even a beach. But they are all irrelevant…

Just try to hear the laughter, hear the playing… Remember your own childhood… Feel like you’re there up close with her, her brother and her sister. Sometimes she will notice you and say hi. Sometimes she will play and laugh with you until her stomach aches. Sometimes you feel like you need to let her be, dreaming.

She stares into the sea.

– Anton Kusters, December 2008

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Anton Kusters

107 Responses to “anton kusters – sugar”

  • Do I dare be the first? Excellent work Anton! Looking forward to the fire…

  • david mcg!

    yes you truly are the first one… and many thanks for the kind words… i’m looking forward to the fire as well… wherever it may burn, may it burn fiercely…

  • Moving work ! Beautiful photographs !
    Bonne continuation Anton.

  • Oh, Anton, SUGAR looks wonderful! You help us get past the pity-place and find the true essence of Birgit’s lively spirit. I am in awe of your artistry but even more, your sensitivity. This essay changes attitudes and isn’t that what it’s all about?

    Now, to BURN. WOW!!! Edgy elegance is how I’d characterize your web design. And it is SO easy to navigate! How can we ever thank you enough for the gift you’ve given us??? You’re the BEST!!!


  • ANTON! beautiful amigo.. i love this project of yours.

  • Nice Anton! Well done mate! It has been a long time since I originally saw this work back in the summer. It has evolved beautifully. You should be very proud. (burn site is amazing too!) Rest well brother, rest well…

  • Hi Anton, you essay has come alive beautifully, congratulations! The music was nice but it came to an abrupt end, prematurely perhaps…along with the slideshow…hope you will look into it later…I do not want to be sounding critical but I think you need to also think about how the essay will be ending along with the musical…about the site: everything is looking promising here. you have to be congratulated for this one also…take rest…

  • Anton…your essay on Birgit has truly come alive here. I feel privileged to have been able to see it evolve and grow into this wonderful work…a fit kickoff to fill the frame of the wonderful showcase that is being created here as well…

    good light to all.

  • I loved your story of Birgit… Its a reminder of how sweet and precious it all is.. all of it.. ** this.. ** I like your use of color, soft and intimate.. and her story should inspire all.. how sweet it is.. perfect title.. **

  • Hey ‘lil bro, beautiful work…full of light and life! Congrats, well done!

  • Hi son, your words and photos are putting so much positive energy in the daily life of Birgit. She will always love you for that. So do I.

  • I love your story about Birgit… mes amitiés à toute la famille…

  • Great story.
    Excellent website.


  • I just realized I watched it silently. Never thought to turn on the sound. Nonetheless, it was a powerful experience. I will now watch again with the soundtrack playing.

    Congratulations on a beautiful body of work. What a lovely youngster.

  • ANTON!
    veramente veramente un bel lavoro!

    molto profondo!

  • ALL… vincent, patricia, lance, james, siddhartha, andrew b, wendy, BIG sis lisa, mom (hi mom!), audrey, srinivas, paul, angelo…

    i can tell you, waking up this morning to all these beautiful comments is a perfect way to start the day… heartwarming… thanks all for that….

    after new year, i will start making plans to try and see publishers… i want to turn this into a book… i mean, if nothing else, what more beautiful is there than being able to present a real published book to kiddo Birgit as a gift… it is for her that i will go all the way to turn this project “real”… just one more step…


    yes yes, better off with sound :)))) the music fits the images well, don’t miss out on that…


    good point, i was aware of that, and i will be looking into that as well… i have a quicktime hi res presentation as well… where images, text and music are perfectly synched… but quite large to feature here… i might post the link to it soon….

  • Touching, intimate and beautiful. There are unique images in here, Anton. Congratulations!



  • hey Ana!

    glad to see you here… and glad you like it :))))

  • Anton,

    Wonderful work.

    You inspire.

    Many thanks.


  • WOW! :))))

    REALLY MAGNIFICENT and beautiful essay and I cannot imagine a more beautiful, heart-felt and insightful way to launch Burn Magnificent! :))))…Of course the photographs are beautiful and thoughtful and it has been such a pleasure to watch Birgit’s story unfold over the last year. Above all what i love about this story is that, in fact, it is the story of life. What I particularly cherish Anton is not for a moment is there a pin-prick of sentimentality or pity or squalor. In fact, to the contrary, the story and brigit’s life is filled with joy and abandon and not for a moment to we, the readers, feel “sorry” for her, but instead feel the inspiration and magnificent thrust of her energetic and wilding life. What I tire of so quickly, particularly with stories of children or of stories that detail illness, is the often sad and impailing weight of them. The truth is that children bare the fire and reckless light of living and even though their life may be defined by pain and difficulty, as is the case of Birgit’s life, most of the time they countenance that part as just another part of their life. These photographs and this story convey the power and joy and the mystery and unbridled and beautiful madness of living, the laughter, the sea lick, the light as opening, the daily routines, which for a child are always more than routine, the truth that even in times of uncertainty and pain, their life is lived as it is: inexpressible movement and discovery.

    I am so proud of you for how you have offered up her life, your vision and the celebration of the living, and I cannot think of a wiser and more inspired story to begin this new frontier than that of this remarkable and joyeous young girl. I’d write more about the power and ambiguity of the photographs, but that would just be so much adult dross. That her life and the story has become a beacon, a talisman, to inspire is enought. Magnificent story and I celebrate your work and above all the power of this teeming and love-burn young girl.

    Great opening and I feel so happy to see this day arrive!

    Also, big contratulations to David Alan Harvey for his tireless efforts and uncommon vision to turn the “success” of his wildly read blog into something even more significant than a family of drifting, wayward folk into a powerful community that generates and celebrates through photographs and words this remarkable and mystery passing life. I stand in humble admiration for all that you and this community have accomplished. What a remarkable gift to all and to your readers at this time of the year when giving and fellowship seems to be at the front of all we speak upon.


    congratulations yall for this bloom amid the winter snow!


  • Anton,

    impressive story, beautifully captured, sensible, delicate… very nice!
    keep up the good work!

    all the best for involved in this project, godspeed.
    hope burn is a success, to all the photographers and a warm hello and embrace for David Alan Harvey!


    David Clifford
    Lisbon, Portugal

  • Many years ago, as I callow youth, I watched a photographer taking what I assumed to be editorial or perhaps stock photographs at a seaside resort. I presumed that he was a “professional” photographer because he was using the latest top-of-the-range Nikon film camera and a 300mm F2.8 lens. After watching him work for a while I approached him, explaining that I had a long-term photographic essay (click on my link below) of the resort and asked if he could advise me of any potential outlets for my work (remember this is pre-Internet days).

    “That’s for me to know and for you to find out” he said.

    I relate this story because it is a good illustration of the opposite of what we have here. Instead of obfuscation and protectionism we have a light, a beacon for talented photographers to rally around.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing what this magazine can do. The only limitation is what we put upon ourselves and David doesn’t do limitation. Neither, it seems, does Anton. Wonderful essay Anton; very special and life-affirming. Thank you for sharing with us.

    This is a special place.

  • Anton Good job.. I remember when I saw that progect when we where in Charlottesville… for LOOK3… and feel very happy to see it wider and deeper… good job.. Amico

  • great work
    Super duper
    Right on
    The Start..

  • Excellent work! The music, the images takes me inside Birgite’s life.
    I enjoy the manner you present us these storie.



  • another love letter to the world of photographers this feels so right , feels like the right time and place as we look to how to get the work out, the work from the heart. love the title someway it fits.

  • Hello big brother!
    Am very proud of you! Had to cry again! Very touching! Thanks for everything! Your work makes life much easier!

  • Anton, this is very special … a perfect opening for burn. I look forward to the book … signed of course :)))

  • Congratulations Anton!
    Very nice to see this work edited! Love it!


  • Oh, I freakin’ love this piece…soo poetic. And those of you who haven’t seen the book comp, it looks even better in book form. Really looking forward to something happening with this. You da man, Anton! The site looks killer too!!

  • again, coming back from dinner to all these great comments is heartwarming… i need to go to bed now i’m completely exhausted… tomorrow i’ll be back here… reading more, replying in detail…

    …so great sis that you dropped by…

    more tomorrow, i promise…


  • anton–

    everyone who sees this will absolutely fall in love with this little girl.
    so beautiful and moving and uplifting. this was a pleasure to see and feel.

  • nicely done, anton and d.a.h!

    anton, your own website is full of beautiful work, too.

    is there someplace here on BURN where i missed a link or little bio about you? readers are interested, if this is missing it should be a standard piece of each essay — a few lines about the photographer / writer / artist.

  • Anton,

    Lovely, sensitive and emotional work. I watched it silently too, by accident and loved the peaceful feeling I felt while watching what must be a life altering condition. This little girl is inspiring as is the photographer, you!
    Burn is amazing and fresh and exciting!


  • Anton,

    I must have seen the essay about 10 times today!!!! Also great choice of song. I cannot get the music out of my head and your photographs on top make it very very special! Maybe I will bug you when I am in Belgium on how to do these very nice slideshows….


  • Anton,

    What a feeling watching and listening your wonderful essay … I tried to describe this feeling in English but that’s impossible for me. In Dutch there is one word that can describe a bit of those feelings: “bangelijk” (in verschillende betekenissen van het woord)…
    Thanks, Anton, for all what you do for Birgit but especially for what you mean for her.
    Sleep well


  • You’re sweet kiddo is beautiful through your lens, and has us all staring at the sea again, anew.

  • I can’t get over how much I love the out-of-focus-ness to this whole thing. It’s so communicative. There’s so much emotion and feeling to be captured in whole, so all we get are little imperfect glimpses, the sum of which ends up being close to perfect. Real nice.

  • ANTON…

    “BURN is very cool. I enjoyed the “Sugar” piece. What a tragic, but lovely body of work.”

    These are the words of Chris Johns, Editor, National Geographic Magazine in a private email to me this morning….

    Nuff, said…we are rolling sweet….

    cheers, david

  • Anton

    I laughed with her and hurt with you… Thank you for sharing those emotions!

    Thank you DAH for opening a window!


  • brilliant anton..

    love this format for showing work.. and so happy yours is the first ..


  • Anton…

    Lovely, gentle and moving….

  • While undoubtedly a heartfelt photographic essay, I have to confess that “sugar” leaves me wanting.

    Many of the photographs have a simple innocence to them that is alluring; however I found the repetition frustrating, and crucially (for me anyway) i didn’t feel like I learnt a single thing about diabetes from the images; further to this, the experiences of the little girl as described in the accompanying text just weren’t mirrored for me in the photographs. Perhaps I am missing the point, but without the text all i can see is a collection of well executed “family photos”.

    is this enough? am I alone in thinking this way?




  • Before starting to train as a PJ i worked with young people with learning disabilities and medical conditions (including diabetes). It can be very easy to fall into the trap of portraying pity and the difficulties faced instead of letting individual characters and successes come through. It can be a difficult balance to make but this set seemed to dodge the question entirely by being so random and unstructured.

    The son of close friend was also diagnosed with diabetes just over a year ago. I remember the burden it placed on a family not unused to difficult times. As time has passed they have accepted it as part of every day life. But it wasn’t easy.

    This set doesn’t attempt to show any kind of journey. As Ben said above it doesn’t really rise above the nice family photo album. Its a shame, I can’t help but feel an opportunity was missed to explore the subject on such a personal level.

  • “The things that are on top of a kid’s list, should in fact be on top of anyone’s list”

    so true, so true… loved the photos and the words above to…


  • It’s hard to believe, a few months ago your work was spread about the floor of a Mexico hotel room. (or the boardroom) Great work! Hope to see you in 09.

  • I love the soothing beautiful photographs of Birgit. The joy in being young in all its innocence. However I myself am a Type 1 insulin dependent diabetic on an insulin pump, and not one of your beautiful photographs shows me what it’s like for her to be diabetic. I wouldn’t know she was diabetic except for the captions. I love the series as a photographic essay of a young lively girl, but the storytelling of her life is desired to complete the story of diabetes mellitus.

  • I would have to agree with some of the negative comments above. I love the photos, but as an essay it’s rubbish. The fact she has Diabetes, “The incurable kind,” seems to have little relevance and is more like a footnote. So what if she has Diabetes, “The incurable kind?” I don’t mean that I don’t care that she does, but the photos make me say “and…?” Show me with your photos why I should care, man! Too much of it seemed like it was being shot to impress other photographers, with a “look-how-clever-I-am!” feel, rather than trying to tell a story.

    As a prickish comment perhaps, I can’t stand the trend of out of focus photography that abounds these days in photojournalism. It’s a cop out, and it’s basically lazy photography.

  • I have to agree with Mike above. This could have been shot in just one morning. I wouldn’t use the word “rubbish” though . My little cousin Tommy struggles from the same “incurable kind” of Diabetes, so i totally relate with the pain that this little girl goes through but honestly though, the photographs look like a Nikon commercial of a new lens. It is like a demonstration of how to use a lens open wide. Who cares about your expensive lens ? What is the message ? How this “essay” can be a study on Diabetes ? And the “out of focus” art?
    Really , as Mike said above : ” show me with your photos why should i care ” ???
    Not trying to be negative, i just do not get it.
    thank you for trying though

  • I never heard Anton or anyone else claim his project to be ‘photojournalism’. This isn’t NPPA. Release the didactic tendencies for a moment and feel what Anton is conveying. It’s Anton’s interpretation of Birgit’s beautiful life, he’s showing us how he ‘feels’, not presenting a dissertation. And his text is complementary, not a repetition of his photographs. And to claim that this project could have been shot in one morning is just a slap in the face. Linda I’m sure you’re an ace photographer that could shoot this essay in one morning, but Anton is Anton, his essay is a touching and personal project.

  • Mike, Linda, ALL…
    there is always an artistic approach to everything… Anton???, he aint no doctor!!!
    i dont think he was trying to fucking enlighten us about how to use a syringe or explain
    to us what this fucking diabetes shit is!!!????? i see your point about not spending much
    time with the kid but how do we even know that…
    i feel that anton was trying to be sweet and show us the innocence and fragility…
    not exposing the actual disease.. but then again what do i know???
    i’m just a beach bum, and the only diserase i “recognize” is alcoholism… laughing..
    again, mike & linda honestly im not trying to discourage anyone here…
    your opinions fully respected….
    the “only” thing that i believe is missing from anton, is simply HAIR…. on his head…

  • Critiques are great–encouraged in fact–but calling someone’s work “rubbish” is just plain rude.

    I think it’s important to note that the edit of “Sugar” we see here is just a sampling of Anton’s entire body of work on this subject. But never fear, my critical friends, you will see all you ask for and more when the book is published. Many of us have walked with Birgit for many months. We have seen this work grow into a thing of beauty, a testament to the power of life to overcome adversity. There is a message here and it is all summed up in Anton’s words, “The things that are on top of a kid’s list, should in fact be on top of anyone’s list…”


  • Thanks for sharing your work with us Anton. I had the opportunity to view some of it briefly in Oaxaca, and it’s nice to get a chance to soak in a little more. Looking forward to the book.


  • Oh, let the games begin. You can always tell when there are “photojournalists” in the room. All of a sudden there is a lot of talk about what is and isn’t “true” photojournalism, blah blah blah…I gotta tell you guys, I get so bored with that kind of discussion.

    If you guys want a “story” on diabetes, I’m sure there are plenty of straight-ahead, everything-in-focus pieces out there on diabetes, with lots of text and photographs of kids with needles in their arms. Google it, knock yourselves out. And wake me up when it’s over.

    “Sugar” is obviously not an educational piece, and in my opinion, it doesn’t need to be. It is an impressionistic piece, a mood piece, and the beauty of it is that it puts you into the dream-state that most of us inhabited when we were children. When I look at these photos, I FEEL that feeling of being a kid. I see the world from that myopic child’s perspective, where everything is just a little bit out of focus, except the thing that I’m focusing on…I can almost hear the shouts of other kids in the distance, gulls on the beach…Context and place are somewhat irrelevant; it is more about feeling…It is not necessarily “about” diabetes…it is about being a young girl and still having a passion for life despite an incurable illness.

    The point that I think you guys are missing is that this little girl doesn’t WANT you to be “concerned” for her. She doesn’t want her life to be about the insulin shots and the little alarm clock and the blood sugar. She wants to run and play. And the journey that Anton took in photographing this piece is that he began from a place of concern–and took plenty of pictures of needles–but discovered that the most compelling thing about Brigit was her sheer joy and love of life. And yet, the reality is there; she has diabetes. Incurable, but not terminal.

    Mike, to call “out of focus” photography lazy, a trend, a cop-out, etc, is just plain ridiculous. Shooting wide open is a choice, a choice you make with those little buttons and dials on your camera, to express what it is that you are trying to express. There are plenty of photographers that shoot everything at f/8 of f/16 to satisfy you if that’s what you like. But shallow depths of field have been exploited since the dawn of photography and it’s one of the few in-camera tools available to a photographer to make artistic choices about a photograph. It is no more “lazy” to shoot at f/1.4 as it is to shoot at f/8. It’s just a different way of seeing.

    I guess the issue here is this dirty word called “photojournalism”…there is so much baggage wrapped up in that word; and it is unfortunate, because there are infinite ways of “journaling” the world in photos, and yet somewhere along the line the news media grabbed hold of the word and started laying down these fascistic rules of how it had do be done. For the record, of course, this is a “photography” site and not a “photojournalism” site, so the point on some level is moot. But on another level it is an important issue, because what most of us are doing in this community is chronicling life in one way or another, and so even the most abstract and “arty” photographers in this bunch are still photo-journalists as far as I’m concerned.

    Each to their own, of course. Personally I would rather have Anton’s book on my shelf than 99% of the photo books I see out there. But that’s just a matter of personal taste.

  • I think that this is a beautiful website… and I believe many of the images in the sugar project are beautiful too… but what did they say… how did they reach into my heart and make me care…

    If the edit was tighter… if I got to know her… if she was built in my mind to something more than just a tummy or toes…

    Perhaps if the drama of having “incurable diabetes” wasn’t so blown up.

    There are so many children dying from “incurable” diseases in this world… I guess I feel that it is over dramatizing something so trivial in comparison to cancer or any number of other aliments.

    Not that diabetes is trivial… but in this context it is almost comical.

    I agree that photojournalist can take themselves too seriously. Conversely, just because something is blurry doesn’t mean it is artsy.

    Maybe “Sugar” should be instead a story about being young and innocent at the beach… is it really about diabetes or is being forced into being about diabetes?

  • I just sucked in breath to respond to the critiques … and then I saw Chris Bickford’s reply. I could never have put it better. So I want to second him.

    For me the whole point of this work is a kid (unconciously) teaching us that there is more than one way to deal with fate that is harder than usual. It is about hope and about the responsability we have for our own happiness. And that there always is a choice. For me that is the message. Anton’s captions are incredibly important to get the contrast between the path his niece choose in comparison to what most of us adults would have choosen.

    And yes … we do have Diabetes in the family too. I do know what it means and I do know what it does not mean.

  • Ok … have to say it again.
    For me Anton’s work is not about Diabetes at all, but about the choices we have in life about how to deal with fate. Diabetes in this case just happening to be the circumstances.
    So for me this work has a really basic and wonderful message.

    Nevertheless I would have maybe edited some more pictures out or have arranged them differently. It is not the pictures themselves, is just the visual rhythm which I think could be improved. But that still could be done now or later.

    Yes … and the abrupt ending of the music is a little harsh. I was so “in” that it almost made me drop my cup. :)

  • David Alan Harvey, congratulations on this new endeavor! Great start and it looks very promising after a glance at “coming soon” section. I look forward to it. All the best,

    PS. Was it expensive to license the music for this piece?

  • Last night, i’d written (carved up?) a long response to Mike and then, as my son and mom were anxiously calling me to get back to the Uno card war that was at that point in full onslaught, my son said “dad, come on. no one will read one of your long comments anyway, let the pictures speak for themselves…”…have i told you my son is smarter than I…

    There is nothing, in truth, to add to what Chris B has already argued. The attack on the “out of focus” “wide open” shot as “lazy photography” is not only a remarkably superficial critique (and one that is surprising from a knowledgeable photographer) but ironically forgets the tendency that photography, a priori, is about specific visual trends: the act of the photographer. The world of photography (whether it is PJ work or conceptual work or ‘fine art’ work) at the moment is awash in similarity: the hyper-real precision of the new and “improved” glass that warrants photographs to look as if they have same anemic armature of manequins, digital precision, or the dry-ironic wash of gradient light cascading over extraordinary tight closeups, or the return to “older” values (using glass negatives) or the embracing of toy cameras as a turn away from the precision of the new equipment (who among any of us doesnt have a toy camera as well). The truth is that all these decisions that a photographer makes are simply tools, a vocubably by which someone attempts to express a moment, a life, a place that refuses, no matter how certain we are of our equipment or ourselves, to remain in tact. In my own work, i use a variety of cameras (old 35mm, holga, diana, lomo, fuji instant, pin-hole, any camera that can convey what that moment seemed to feel like or look like. i didnt start using toy cameras cause it was a trend, nor do i use a pin-hole because it is oh so appropos, but because the choice a photographer makes is as personal as the music that carves through the head while walking down a street)….

    lazy photography is not about depth of field or precision of focus (i mean dont all the new cameras have automated focus, innumerable fields of focus, a wider spectrum of lense openings, try all that with that little lomo), but about whether or not a photographer has is engaged with the life around them…i know a world of photos who jet all over, land, crimp behind their display backs button the raw files back to the board and then depart…to disparage another photographers work as Lazy defined only as the “look” of the images is lazy and cynical analysis…

    there are no new photographs, just as there are no new stories, but we are compelled by stories because they are the only thing that each of us has to share, the only thing to which we can attach our fractured lives to in order to hope to make sense…if some viewers want more from this story, that is a legitimate and reasonable reaction, but it should not be mistaken as a lacking of Sugar but a need for those viewers. As i tried to write in my first comment, my own reaction to Sugar is that of a viewer looking at photographs that have detail moments in a young girls life that offer a perspective (not a universal one, not the child’s one, but the photographers) of how her life fueled his own sense of the lived-life. Each and every story that each and every photographer manages to bring forth is, by definition, singular and each thing brought forth entails the loss of other things. The story (as many of us have seen it evolved) does include the requisite photos of needles and tears, of drawn blood and fear on the child’s face (i’ve seen these photographs in anton’s story), but it was his choice to hope to offer something else.

    In the end, the reason we feed upon photographs and words is in the attempt to replenish ourselves, to learn or listen to watch and to hope that somehow those stories offer some points of navigation that connect our lives and our sense of living to others. What is, above all lazy, is the inability to make that fundamental connection between the nexus of the story and our own lives. Each story told is bereft of some meaning, is bereft of some detail, and it is part of OUR responsibility as carnivores for images to understand that in our taking in of them.

    I have never seen this story at all about diabetes but about we often fail to see that a person’s life is not make up merely of those moments or those circumstances that seem to be wounding but rather the extension of our life with them as carriage beyond the details of the meaning of the events…

    critique of work is critical and I am certain that Anton takes to heart the points raised by others, just as all diligent and concerned photographers need to hear reaction, for each story created and told will fail but it is in the acknowledgment and the learning from that failure that we hope, above all, we have taken so richly as way to begin to speak again about things…

    we hope, always, for more and maybe there in lay our dissatisfaction and yet do we not continue to gallop past this, knowing and unknowingly, in order to tell small stories to fend off the cold through the long night….


  • Just for the record Mike: it’s not out of focus but mostly with little depth of field. I did a story on diabetes ( ). Look at it: it’s sharp and factual and in a very different context. But boring. Not one tenth of the emotion conveyed by Anton… Okay no music…

  • What I see in Anton’s essay is an explosion of feelings. He puts us in a special mood with his photos. I agree that the fact that the illness of the girl is diabetes is just a circumstance, not the subject. If it was the subject, he would have photograph injections, doctors, pain… But he is beyond that. He is offering us the joy of a little girl in her dayly life. He is showing her mood besides her shots. I wish I could explain myself better than I do, but it is hard to do it in English.
    These photos are pieces of life. Of course there are some that “talks” to me better than others. I like some more than otheres, but the mood inside most of them is what says something. And, what is photography if it does not “tell” you something?

    By the way, the essay on diabetes by John Vink (very different to Anton’s) is not boring at all. It puts us in a different story, close and sharp. But it “talks” too.


  • John Vink,
    not boring at all… great story, great “eye”… Magnum certified…
    thank u for the link….
    regarding ANTON though… !!! fuck it .. im not gonna defend the guy..
    he doesnt need that…
    his work is like a “french” movie comparing to the american aesthetics…
    viewers that prefer movies like “RAMBO” or the “TERMINATOR”, of course
    they dont like poetic movies like “AMELIE” for example….
    so Anton , dont worry my man…
    its hard to train the “american” eye to see clear….it’s too LAZY for that…
    “who needs a POEM, when you can buy a GUN”….
    ( old texan quote from the 12th century )…
    All…. please wake up…before u start hating….
    please, pretty please…

  • I think that seeing the essay by John Vink is very informative. In this case, Anton could have done it John’s way (more factual, with more downs than highs as it is a disease) or his way, that is more of a dream state narrative. I don’t know how he could have added many lows without dragging his storyline out of the dream. Maybe very beautiful lows, like those we find in paintings which equate death to sleep and somehow make it look positive yet scary at second look. It’s like the two sides of the film Brazil (by Terry Gilliam): reality is a bureacratic and faceless government, more of a machine than a conglomerate of human beings; the dream is the absolute opposite, a free flight and true love. It’s hard to get that balance that the film achieves in which both of them melt, and it does drag indeed a bit.

    Does make me wonder, though, which is the way to achieve the middle path between John’s and Anton’s essays while retaining their respective strengths.

  • “Apple”+”-”
    The pictures resize along with the text … You will have to check how far you can go and still read.
    (sorry, do not remember the keys for pc…. Was it “Ctrl”+”-” … ?)

  • oops, sorry, I am in the wrong thread here … was responding to the screen size issue… :))

  • … correction…
    i didnt mean to say “american aesthetics”
    i meant to say “HOLLYWOOD aesthetics”… versus “french”…

  • anton – you know how much i love this project! congratulations my friend! sugar is the perfect beginning for burn! xo

  • “It’s not how a photographer looks at the world that is important. It’s their intimate relationship with it.”

    Antoine D’Agata

    ( thats why i think that “Sugar” is great , thats why i think that Anton succeeded )

  • ANTON,

    My net connection is way to slow, I cannot see your essay, hope to get a better one soon…


    I clearly remember your story on diabete in Cambodia, strong pictures…

    BURN. team,
    congrat for the nice work, eager to see what’s coming next…

  • i’ve lost my appetite for literal photo essays pitched as art, i’m guilty of making them, but i admit the linear equation they pitch is antiquated and patronising to the intellect… maybe that‘s why Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction works such magic on me,…

    literal, linear photo essays take me back to first grade where you write the steps to something like making toast… i remember how creative-thought meant that you added the step of taking the bread out of the bag… Yawn… and they always had the terminal step, The End…

    i don’t want an End to an effort of Art, even if it is an essay. personally, i want to be stung with enough interest to feel starved for more information, i want to revel in the missing information, otherwise it‘s just another easy to forget making toast story.

    for me literal photo essays, with a few exceptions, are best left to photojournalism, they back up rich writing with even richer detailed subject matter, or visa versa with regards to captions… you go there for the facts and at its best you come back with them. John Vinck, with the deepest respect i think your cited essay on diabetes is exactly this, an essay rich with details and facts and literal messages. i hope you find me mentioning this as a positive thing John, first because it is, and second it should ring true with your staunch pj ethic.

    Chris Bickford described already the exact opposite of p.j. for me and described exactly what i feel when i see this piece; for me it’s a mood piece, it’s an essay where the objective is not education, the objective is emotion.

    photojournalism is constrained to the facts, they are concrete and complete, it’s these fine details of p.j. that anchors our interest. quite the opposite with ‘mood’ pieces, they are abstract and erratic and ironically ‘incomplete’ information is their strength. for me it is this visual pace that the graphical food is served that helps to hold my interest, this duty of ‘interest’ is important as mood is a slower-to-cook ‘thing’ and we often lose interest in something before it can purposefully offer us mood and emotion.

    this piece is abstract and erratic and definitely incomplete with regards to information, but does the visual pace keep us captivated well enough to let the mood work its magic?…. does the duration of essay and it’s information match the dose of emotional charge?

    variety and texture of recognisable features that ooze in tones, and if possible, bleed with colours are what moods and emotions are made of, i suppose that’s why painting with water-colour seems so associated with feeling. Anton’s essay is soaking wet with all of these things, but are all the features crucial to the mood, message, or emotion ‘recognisable‘?

    speaking very specifically about this essay, it’s very daring with regards to style, i would go so far to say it’s so stylised, with such wild-ish angle perspectives and such wild-ish depth-of-field capture that you would be hard pressed find a comparable body of work, examples of this technique ‘yes‘, but not an entire cohesive essay… hmmm just now typing that, i’m sure some pattern recognition monkey will find one and prove me wrong, but there’s one in every crowd…

    …but anyways…. people constantly make mistakes with focus, then giggle, convert the image to black and white and then call it art…. a quick scan of the variety of work that Anton’s already produced makes it clear this essay’s effort was not by accident, and it certainly wasn’t lazy, and i will arm-wrestle anyone that says it’s abuse of the technique,…. but are we looking at a stylistically-powerful and original artistic photo essay?

    Speaking specifically about you Anton, this piece is very daring with regards to subject matter, this is not a fly-on-the-wall piece; it’s an extension of you Anton, you‘re deeply implicated in this plot…. and this plot of course has a strand that’s anything but ideal,…. we all recognise this. it would be more than daring for me, it would be abrupt and rude, to let you know how i feel about this piece, as if it were just that…. but i think you are not serving this piece to it’s fullest potential and rather than patronise you i’d like to let you know what i feel when i let this piece wash over me….. i hope you take it as just one person’s opinion and it’s entirely a favourable one.

    ..ok…first, the easy stuff… ‘Yes’ this essay has all things i’ve mentioned above that makes this essay moody and magic for me, except for two things, first,… at times a frame totally distracts me, when just an image before it i was entirely captivated, and two,…. in the end i feel cheated with regards to recognition of features i feel are crucial to the balance you play between the infliction and the celebration of youth…

    So first the distractions,…. the captions embedded in the essay… from your introduction Anton you seem to suggest that this is a story about childhood that happens ‘despite’ the existence of constraints
    … ‘despite’ being the key word here…. so i think you should carry this lyric all the way through the essay to remind us, like you say, we need to remind ourselves, that it’s the life of a child that should be recognised above the constraint….. if this is a latin sentence structure approach then it becomes a bit more understandable, but it’s written in English, so i’m going to evaluate it as if it were.

    For example:

    “Birgit is a dream girl six years old and always happy gets up in the morning and does her hair Diabetes the number one kind.”

    First off Anton, I find that caption just jars me personally out of any illusion that started with the music and the stunning initial images, it’s an incoherent sentence and for me it’s upside down like all the rest of the captions..

    for me an essay pitching the spirit of ‘despite constraint’ seems to make more sense leading with the infliction and ending with why ‘it just doesn’t matter’ or why ‘it’s just not the thing to focus on‘? For example

    “Birgit has Diabeters, the number one kind, she is a dream girl, six years old, always happy, gets up in the morning and does her hair.”

    People remember best the last note in a song and in my opinion, with the structure you deliver those comments, emphasis is placed on the last thing you say, isn’t the infliction the thing you want to focus on the least Anton?

    The only other thing that i think would make this more powerful and would allow the total elimination of captions (a worthy pursuit in my mind Anton) is to go back and tease out some more suggestive, recognisable features that augment the infliction side of the equation, they don’t have to be in your face journalist efforts Anton.. they really don’t need to be any more obvious than frame 22 and frame 30….. you’ve relied almost entirely on captions to amplify the infliction side of the equation with the exception of these two frames, if you want to amplify it to the level you have with captions, why not do so with images? the suggestive visual evidence is there for you to collect Anton and the childhood whimsical signals are already there and amplified perfectly, but lopsided in balance over the spirit of the message which for me says whimsical childhood behaviour despite infliction…

    Trust our intellect Anton on how subtle those suggestions can be…. if you think about dropping the captions…. and adding some more subtle images. Also if this message of ‘despite’ is cemented well, it becomes a more infectious as a ‘hopeful’ message to anyone with an infliction..

    But most of all, Best Wishes with moving this body of work to the next level and Happy Holidays!


  • damn joe, this must be the most insightful online critique i have ever recieved…

    you touched exactly on the two things that i have been debating in my head for the longest time: the captions, and providing just a little more visual information through details… like frame 22…

    what made me stray: in the very beginning, when i created the slideshow, i really did trust the intellect of the viewer… only “sugar” as a title, no captions, and let the subtle visual references speak for themselves… the needle mark, the hard belly, the artificial sweetener,… this should be enough for the discerning viewer to understand, right? but to be honest, at the select showings (not online at this time yet), this totally surprised me for the worst…

    i guess the reason is that a slideshow sets a pace and forces you to look at images reasonalbly quickly… forces you to hear the music too… harder to notice details… more of getting into a mood… you kind of need to capture attention quickly, deliver the message “boldly” in a short time…. set the mood… and make the viewer curious about more…

    while, in contrast, a book, by it’s very nature, has the opportunity to deliver the same message more subtle (intermediate slides gone, only images left to be studied, flipping back and forth, taking your time…)

    have i succeeded here? to some level, i guess yes… but maybe i have faultered and taken the slideshow to a too different level and let the format interfere with the feeling of the story

    joe, you certainly make a fine and valid point here, and now that i look at the sshow again it’s kinda staring me in the face :)))

    with total respect,


  • oh and about all the other comments above…

    i attempted a little visual poem about a little girl, nothing more, but also, nothing less… dead simple

    and there is really nothing to add to what Lance, Chris, John Vink, Panos, Patricia, Bob black, Lassal, Ana and all others have said… they described it way better than i would ever have been able to…

    and at the same time they offered me even more: between-the-lines precious new insights on why they really like/what they don’t like/what they really feel about this project i have been working on so intensely

    shot with my plastic fantastic $100 lens…

    so all.. thank you for that

    i have learned


    your quote from antoine d’agata really nailed it BIG TIME. i’m gonna steal it :-)

    all… enjoy xmas

  • Anton, Joe’s comment helps me clarify some niggling doubts that were floating around the edges of my consciousness when I first saw this edit of Sugar. I too love the mood, flow, impressionistic style of shooting, and message of this essay.

    What I found myself missing in this edit were some of the photos I’d seen in earlier edits, the ones that showed Birgit giving herself a shot of insuline, taking her blood test, even the ones of the equipment itself. There weren’t many of these and they were interspersed among the “being a child” shots without drawing too much attention to themselves. But they added that edge of the REAL that kept Sugar from being too sweet.They also worked because they were taken in a style consistent with the other photos. If you put a few of these back in–not many, just 2-3–you could eliminate the captions and, in my opinion, strengthen this essay.

    Anton, is there anything stopping you from changing this edit and reposting a revised one in its place? I think it would be educational to us all. We all know that taking the photos is the easiest part of working on a long-term essay; it’s the edit that’s a real bitch to get right!


  • Joe,

    Very insightful and constrive critique! It is a real pleasure to read your take on the work from our friends here, whether I think about the critique you wrote to Lassal , Patricia or this latest one to Anton. It is great to have you part of this community. I hope you continue to share with us what you think about the work we do.



  • i’m glad that joe (a good friend of mine, and someone who is more articulate than i) wrote his extended critique. he was able to clarify what i was thinking when i wrote my initial comment (which i hope wasn’t taken the wrong way – if it has in some way stimulated the resulting debate then i guess it was justified?)

    i would be interested in seeing a wider edit with some of the images mentioned by patricia.

    also – anton – you’re right when it comes to the slideshow not being the ideal environment for viewing photographs, although perhaps it is the best available for the online viewer. a book or well laid out magazine spread will always win for me.

    merry xmas…


  • Hi Anton !

    The essay I find deepling moving and I like how you suggest her illness through her playing, and without showing the injections, for instance.

    If I remember well, you showed me pictures of injection in Perpignan, and I thought they had to be part of the story… Now I realize it is much stronger when it is suggested. Thus, maybe I would remove some captions and include the missing elements in the introductory text.

    Very touching Anton, and I love how you were able to visually depict childhood !

    Pierre Yves

  • I LOVE that there is some debate going on here and that it is helping Anton make Sugar even sweeter :))
    That should be the point of our discussions here…not to provide a “winner” or “loser” but to take the work even further. Please all…let’s not drive away those who disagree with us. We NEED them here. Disagree-ers please stick around! If you want to be taken seriously the best thing you can do is to disagree in a way that is not rude.

    Peace on Earth :))

  • Nice commentary here, I think that this would be an opportunity to discuss the work in progress and discuss the decisions made along the way. Ultimately this is a personal project, so Anton gets to have the final say in his edit. But were this a magazine piece, or an ad campaign, or a book sponsored by a large company, the edit could have gone many different ways. I think the book comes off very strong as a piece, I might choose different music for the slideshow, maybe use voice-over to linger over some of the photos so that the finer details don’t get lost in the run of a slideshow. But for me the essential beauty of the piece remains; this is not mereley clever photography, but a strong execution of photographic technique to create a world.

    Merry Christmas Anton…


  • you know.. some of the positives are good here.. and some of the negatives are as well.. but not all the positives nor all the negatives..

    if photography is about finding a passion, investigating your own atheistic and keeping on and on until you have captured just the slightest hint of emotion, feeling, context and direction then ANTON has done a superb job..
    it is impossible to explain, in words, music or the visual arts, the full remit of what we all experience as human beings.. and if an effort brings us just an 8th of the full ounce of feelings then it’s a success.. and i think anton has achieved more than that.

    after all… how many commenting here, who have been courageous enough to supply a weblink, have been courageous enough to photograph someone.. something.. so personal.. close to heart.. a human flaw which has no doubt completely altered our perspective on life love and everything?
    not many..
    very few..

    i respect anton for his accomplished aesthetic, his ability technically and his bravery for showing on this small corner of the photographic web first.. and i respect him more for showing us someone who he loves, with such sensitivity and openness.
    the essay flows beautifully and acts as a catalyst to draw us back into childhood.. also with words.. and then gives us the shock of the reality through bite sized contradictions between childlike desired and adult concerns.
    i think it’s a much more sophisticated piece of work than most of the junk on the web.. and yes.. especially the junk on flickr

  • For me, Brigit’s story is a beautiful lesson of life, she is only 6 years old and she is so strong and brave, she suffers from an incurable disease, but she does not feel sorry (elle ne s’apitoie pas) and takes advantage of the life… Maybe it is the innocence of the childhood, but I do not believe it… We see through several images that she is totally conscious of her state and that she has a behavior of adult… I had one day an accident where I put more than year before re-walking and I would have liked reacting as Brigit… Now, I know that it is necessary to take advantage of the present moment, of the life, the family, friends, we do not know that tomorrow will be made…

    That I also like in this essay, it is all the love which you have for your niece, but it is true as well as I miss image with the daily injection…



    Anton has told us in words that Birgit is we really need a photograph of a needle to back up what he says in words?? isn’t his essay about the fact that she is all but oblivious to “the needle”…what does a picture of her giving herself insulin add to this dreamy essay?? of course her life is not all dreamy..but this essay is…a needle picture would totally kill THIS essay..another photographer, at another time, with another approach , might be different…another essay could be all about needles..but i am talking about THIS essay….and Anton as an author…an author of a dream, not a “reportage”…

    cheers, david

  • DAVID.

    Your comment above has brought up a question that I hope I don’t butcher after drinking strong margaritas at Maria’s…. :))

    When you are working with a photographer, critiquing work that is considered “reportage” there can be many questions you ask…How each image applies to the story…what the author is trying to say, etc… Does your questioning or editing process differ when the work is “dreamy?” Do you have the same expectations of “the moment”, lighting, composition, etc? Or are you looking for something totally different in work such as Anton’s than you would with (quoting you)…

    “another photographer, at another time, with another approach , might be different…another essay could be all about needles?”

    Hope that makes sense. Thanks.

  • DAVID. Anton. here’s more…

    Since no one has stepped in here, let me add to my last comment/question…
    There does NOT need to be a needle in this essay.
    What DOES there need to be???
    We have not heard what has transpired between you and Anton during the editing process of Sugar.
    In what direction were you pushing him with this work? What were you trying to get out of him?


    I’m aware that my response to Anton’s beautiful essay is colored by the fact that I, like Birgit, live with a serious chronic condition. One of my major tasks since I was diagnosed 20 years ago has been to curb my tendency to see things through rose-colored glasses and look at life as it is, not as I wish it were. I expect that’s why I missed seeing Anton’s photos that showed the day-to-day realities that Birgit lives with, ie., her daily injections and blood tests. Yes, I know his text speaks of it, but I guess I’m one who would rather be shown something than told about it. I personally feel 2-3 such images would not destroy the dreamy mood that Anton has so marvelously captured. I’m inclined to think it is our reluctance to accept the whole of Birgit’s experience that makes us shy away from showing all facets of her life. But maybe I’m just projecting my own issues onto Anton’s essay. I know Sugar touches me deeply. It is a superb body of work, one that I look forward to owning in book form as soon as that can happen.


  • I liked specially the lack of the girl’s arsh reality and the focus on the details of being a kid and being playfull and sweet. Some of the photos where the girl’s not in there are the most significant about her life in my opinion.

  • These are the types of photographs I hope I will be able to take some day. The textures, composition and colors are all beautiful. You told a story without telling it.

  • As an essay on the strength of the spirit through adversity, its lovely. As a visual poem on ‘the embracing of lifes positives’ its very sweet. Does it tell me anything about the particular condition? Not really. Does that bother me as a viewer? Not at all.
    It is obviously made with a lot of love and tenderness, and in a hard world like ours theres never enough of that.
    Is it finished or perfect? What ever is?
    I suppose what im saying is that while i would never see myself shooting like this, and while my world view is jaundiced by all i have been/seen, and while this does seem ‘unfinished’ to me, it still made me a little bit happier about the world, and made me smile a little bit inside. And that has to be a good thing right?

  • Fantastic piece of work. Smooth and well composed. Arty but not to arty. Just Great.

  • sofia, tyler, unevolved, nathan,

    thanks for your words… and yes, john, you are right: when is it ever finished? i still see her very very often, and every time i pick up my camera because i keep seeeing the moments. at some point i decided that i had enough “base” to tell the story, and then i told myself to stop photographing her, at least for a while, so i could take some distance and create the story. that was probably one of the hardest things to do, put down my camera. i continuously feel like picking it up again for her. and i will soon again, i suspect.

    it is not my intention to claim or to tell anything about diabetes in particular; there are many more photographers who have done this a million times better. this story is much more an ode to “choose life”.


    you have a point there, showing the needles, and we have tried while editing: but… even just ONE needle picture TOTALLY changed the mood of the whole essay… i am not saying showing a needle is wrong or bad, but i feel (and she feels) that including those here, is just not “her” story. it’s not about diabetes per sé, but about a kid who chooses life.

    i am still out on a limb about the text slides though, i might feel that closing text (like the accompanying text) is “enough” to tell the story. time will tell.

  • all…

    sorry i have not had a chance to read the comments for a while, participating in the discussion… i’m just catching up now: great stuff, really makes me think a lot deeper about the story i’m telling here.

    thanks again for articulating so many views an opinions, i feel priviledged that all you take the time to express a well thought-through opinion about “Sugar”


  • Anton, when you say that Brigid prefers not to have the needles showing that’s enough for me. This, after all, is HER story and hers should be the voice we hear.

    This is a beautiful essay exactly as it is shown here. I can’t wait to have my own copy of the book autographed by both you and Brigid!

    hugs to you both

  • My biggest pet peeve is when people critique something not for what it is but what it isnt but they wish it were. Its obvious this was not a photojournalistic piece so critiquing it as one misses the mark quite significantly. What it is is a wonderful personal story of a girl with diabetes, not a story about her diabetes. Patricia’s story is similar although with much more focus on her condition which is central to her identity. But for Brigit, a young child, this obviously isnt so and thats reflected in the story.

    Most interesting to me was your struggle with when to stop shooting….something I struggle with with my own project Anton. Because when is a story thats so much about your personal life really over? Same with Patricia, I would imagine.


    Welcome to the club of those who do not know when to stop…. Here am I as well, sending an essay to David and Anton and immediately going out afterwards to shoot… By the time David will look at what I have sent there will be 5 or 10 new photographs that I wished I had sent and by the time I will have done that, I am sure this will happen again…:):):): In my case, this never ending issue will get resolved by me moving to a different country so this will take care of my dilemna…. I hope you guys find a less radical solution :):):):):).


  • I’m joining this not-knowing-when-to-stop club too! Eric, I already have several new photos that would have fit perfectly into the edit that was shown here a few weeks ago. Thank god I’m working towards a book so I can use them there. And Rafal, yes, you and I are in the same boat. If you’re photographing your day-to-day life, when do you say,”Enough already?” Now I have it in my mind that I want photos from the four seasons so come May, hopefully I’ll be done. Or who knows? Maybe one day DAH will just say, “Stop! You’re done.”



    we are not locked on your online essay..we can add new material anytime…it is quite easy..let me know what you want to do….you have many new readers to your essay everyday…and if you look at the very top of the BURN header it says “evolving journal”…

    get to it…

    cheers, david

  • Wow. I didn’t know that! What fun. I can play some more. But this time I PROMISE once I send the new additions to you, David, I’ll stick with them ;=)


  • yes it is difficult to stop… i actually have to start up a new project so i can stop the running one!
    (and yes Eric, me too starting the project on the other side of the world so my attention HAS to focus 100% over there… i get you bro!)

  • What happened to the music? Gone, or is it just my old computer?

  • Gone with wind…

  • Samuel, we discovered we could not use copyrighted music without permission. For most of us this was too high a hurdle to jump, so, for now, our essays are silent.


  • wow..
    more comments to respond to..
    My feeling, after just completing a 10 year project,
    is you KNOW when it is done…
    If you don’t KNOW it, or feel it,
    chances are, your story is not complete…
    You know in your gut,
    when the story is done…
    no more images to tell…
    perhaps for some,
    the story is never finished..
    you will always take the photographs…
    But there does come a time,
    when you focus on another subject and you grow from your previous story…
    Certainly there are things you would change with your 1st project,
    but that , in my opinion,
    is growth as a photographer….
    and how we learn,
    to tell a better story…

  • i have type one diabetes. i’ve never been so proud to say it. thank you for what you’ve created. it’s a breath of fresh air.

  • shannon

    thank you for your message… Birgit’s case is particularly taxing for her and her surroundings, as due to her young age, her pancreas sometimes still kicks in… this makes measuring her blood sugar levels to determine her insuline amount quite difficult.

    so in a weird way, and this may sound strange, we are all hoping that soon her pancreas will fail entirely, so that at least she can do away with the constant blood checks and have some saner schedule for administering insuline

    on a side note: i am leaving for NYC today to meet with a publisher… i’m hoping things will work out in some way. keeping my fingers crossed :-)



    This is exciting news! Will be holding you in good publishing energy! I know “Sugar” is going to be a book because I “see” it in my mind’s eye…just like I “saw” Obama as president months before the election. I’m a little bit pschic, you know ;+0


  • Joe

    I’ve just read this for the first time. I have to agree with Anton, what a marvelous critique, and what right on suggestions. Damn I wish I were half as insightful.

    Rock on

    G. Lafleur

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