This is This and This is This


Happy New Year.

Here are some things:

This is some snow. This is a book at the presses. These are the first dummy tests for the "dislocate" books. This is a good whiskey (after having a few). This is some more work done on the "yakuza" solo exhibit in april. And these are flowers for my mother.

....and there's much more to come.

2013 is going to be a good year, I'm sure of it. For all of us... it has to be. My best wishes to each and every one of you... and see you soon.


Ten images that didn't make it into YAKUZA

Sorry that I've been gone for a while... it's the first time in years that I've been able to relax my mind a couple of weeks, and in hindsight it has been necessary: I've been able to take some much needed important decisions, decisions that have been delayed and delayed even without me realizing it, and with a relaxed mind have come to surface and have been easier to contemplate... And of course I've started preparing for the fall when things will get up to full speed again with many especially exciting new things that I want to tell you all about, not only things related to the Yakuza project. More on all this soon...

In the meantime, I thought this one would be fun: the ten images that most narrowly did not make it into the ODO YAKUZA TOKYO book.

anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it

The story goes as follows: during any book design process, one has to be prepared to meet unexpected circumstances, and it's not uncommon that even at the last instant, things can change completely. In my case, my - what I (and the printer) thought was the - definitive book edit had always been 98 spreads with images, plus 6 spreads for the chapters (plus pages for text at the beginning and the end).

And then it happened. Right at the very last second, when the printer was making the final impositioning for the plates, we both noticed we had made a major calculation error in the book. I had designed part of one book section too many. Simple page count error. Basic rookie mistake. I've been professionally designing books for years, how could this have happened. This could turn out to be a disaster.... because this meant, that in effect, I would have to cut images from the book, and I had to cut them fast. There was simply no choice. The only other option would be to literally stop the printing and re-think the whole book paper, cover, book thickness, weight, binding,... not to mention the extra costs involved... and to delay the book launch by several months.

So I chose to push ahead. Cut the images. And what could have easily become a disaster, in hindsight, actually turned out to be something good. For some reason, I was able to identify the images that had to go, very quickly... having spent months with the edit, somehow it appeared clear in my mind what had to be done. And indeed, leaving those images out, turned out to make a stronger edit.

Of course, after cutting the images, I had to re-look and re-do the entire sequencing, and this in turn leading yet again to be forced to drop out another couple of images. Damn. In total, I decided cut exactly 10 images and changed the sequencing, dividing into more (but smaller) chapters... extremely tense moments I can tell you, especially because I think I only had 2 hours to complete the job, prepare a new hi res pdf and deliver it. The presses were ready to go. And you don't ever want the presses to be waiting for you, trust me.

Even with the pressure looming over me, I still recall those two hours as something extremely positive, as very exciting, as an opportunity to make the book better still. I'm so glad I didn't choke and pull the plug. It was like someone had whispered in my ear: "Anton, you now have 2 hours to make your book better, and it's your last chance... go for it".

Judge for yourself... what do you think of these 10 that didn't make the cut? I know showing them out of their original sequence is not ideal, but I hope it'll work.

anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it
anton kusters - odo yakuza tokyo - just didn't make it

have a great summer all, and more soon, I promise!


YAKUZA exhibit in C-mine, Genk (BE) - 2013

YAKUZA exhibit in C-mine - Genk (BE) - 2013 So here is the big news... my first YAKUZA solo exhibit has just been confirmed for spring 2013.

And it's one hell of a unique location... the former Winterslag coal mine now-converted-to-cool-cultural-centre C-mine... A long time ago, this was also the coal mine my late grandfather and godfather (not Antoine, but Bert) worked in.

I now have exactly 11 months to prepare. It seems like a long time, but in reality it's not.... I'll be drawing concepts, making scale models, test prints, paper types, and sketching like hell. And the edit and sequencing of course will be crucial... and the production of the artwork itself will take several months... not to mention producing the installation itself.

I think I've got some cool things in mind as to how I'd like to approach this, and the next conversations with C-mine will determine the feasibility of what's inside my head. They loved the initial concept, so hopefully it'll work out the way I'm envisioning it.

I'll be talking about every step of the way right here, building the concept online, and letting it grow from idea to sketch to model to reality... a careful deliberate journey, and hopefully mucho fun!

I just visited the location, and I've got a whopping 450 m2 (about 1,500 sq ft) at my disposal.

really excited...




The YAKUZA 2nd edition book cover

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - second edition - cover Surprise! For those of you who ordered the second edition of YAKUZA, I present you with the new cover image. I hope you like it...

The inside of this second edition is the same as the sold out limited edition... but the last image, binding, chapter paper and cover are different. Read more about that here.

Exciting... In about ten days the second edition will be stitched and bound, the cover attached, and all the books will be individually shrinkwrapped, ready to be packed and shipped.

And so the distribution begins... I'm really really looking forward to it, and at the same time I'm a little scared of this first massive shipment of books I'm going to fulfill during the first week of November. Am I logistically even going to be able to handle it?

Fingers crossed.

Looking forward to the smell of books filling up my house again.

Have a great day today,



PS. Oh, and if you haven't bought a book yet, now is really the time to do so... just click the green button here to your left... I need your support... I promise, you'll not be disappointed!


ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - second edition - cover

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO (limited edition)

Finally.... it's here! The book ODO YAKUZA TOKYO.... Over on BURN Magazine there's a great interview by David Alan Harvey with me about the new book... and obviously you can buy it there. Please do so... it's a beautiful object... and limited to only 500 numbered copies...

Below an excerpt from the introductory text:

In the hotel bar in Niigata, I’m only slowly starting to understand the extremely subtle social interaction that is continuously happening; the micro-expressions on the faces, the gestures, the voices and intonations, the body language...

As the bar is being evacuated to make room for the godfather having a coffee, everything seems to be strictly organized but at the same time seems to come naturally: strange, I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do, where to sit, when to talk or when to shut up. It’s like I literally feel the boundaries, the implicit expectations, and I’m slowly learning when I can move forward, and when to best hold back.

Sitting at the table with a bodyguard looking straight through me, I drink my iced coffee. I’m feeling the acute sensation of walking on eggshells.


So yes, I feel a little like I took a step forward... printed and bound exactly like I envisioned it, a limited edition of 500 copies, soft cover, Japanese paper,... in my eyes, it has it all.

I sold 8 out of 10 copies at LOOK3 festival a few days ago, and was humbled by the amazing response. To watch someone looking through your book is something that completes the circle for me...

So go ahead, buy a copy, you will not be disappointed... and you will be supporting me to continue my work. Shipping starts on July 1st. My first task, tomorrow, is going to Japan with 10 books as a gift to the family bosses. Presented to them by me and my brother Malik with a little ceremony.

Fingers crossed.

Oh, and by the way.... today is my birthday.... some lucky coincidence.

[ NOTE: as of July 21 2011, this limited edition is sold out. You can direct any inquiries about this limited edition to me directly. There is a second edition of this book available; for more information and to buy the second edition, look here. ]

893 book dummy | Thoughts

So my book dummy arrived last week. yay :-) It's kind of funny to notice the different "feels" a particular image has, depending on which medium, or in which circumstance, you view it. Heck even my mood makes me thoroughly dislike an image I've loved five minutes before. And vice versa. And this goes on all the time... Being able to delete at the touch of a button is NOT a good thing at these moments :-/

I guess it's kind of logical that the above is true. but the thing that sometimes floats around in my mind is: is my mood "right"? So will "the" edit be "correct"? What is "correct"? What if i make the "wrong" edit? Is there even such a thing as "the" edit?

Oh my god. Too many parentheses.


Actually I'm sure that the "definitive" edit is a myth... Every project I do, has at least half a dozen, and sometimes many more edits. All these edits come together in a story: that one, all-encompassing mega-edit that is the sum of all potential useful images. And there's more: every project has potentially many stories. And to complicate things even further: as a person you develop different visions over time...  Imagine keeping all this in mind while you're making that one edit.

And all you can look at is one image at a time.


Basically I guess it boils down to this:

Know thyself very well, what you stand for, who you are as a person. What you can, and more importantly, what you cannot do. Knowing this, is your greatest strength.

As time progresses, definitely in long term, documentary-like photography projects, your vision, your story, your edits, continually adjust themselves and multiply or outright influence each other. Being able to keep track of all these things, is imho a good base to tell stories in a solid way (through different edits/projects) and develop a strong artistic vision (over time, over different projects, as a photographer, as a person, as a storyteller).


OK sorry... Enough over-analyzing... Basically I just started out writing this because when I held the book dummy in my hands earlier this week, it reminded me of how much pure fun it is to edit and edit and edit again and to foster and see it all grow and come together... I take months to do it, the slower the better. It's like getting into a brand new relationship with the same images, completely different than the relationship you already have because of making them in the first place... And not at all mutually exclusive... Powerful stuff.

Being able to distinguish between these two "modes" is the key: being able to "divorce" yourself from re-living the moment you took the picture, so you can make that good edit, tell that story.

Of course i'm not forgetting about the major importance of being able to build that initial relationship with your subject(s) in the first place... Because this is where it all starts... If no relationship here, then no chance of ever being able to tell a story, develop a vision... Your own CONNECTION to the subject at the time of photographing... It is the CORE of being able to make a unique story... To be able to feel the story developing in front of you... See your growing vision... To be able to let go of all worldly things and simply get in "the zone" while shooting....


So it's crucial to have both. Go figure. Hard thing to do. As if having one of the two wasn't hard enough to begin with. how on earth can i divorce myself from those "moments", and look at the picture in a solely media/edit-biased way without instantly being transported back to the moment? and switch back and forth between modes in an instant?

"Hi, i'm anton, picture editor."

"Hi, i'm anton, photographer."

What i do to solve this is basically the following: i let time go over the edits. i let places go over the edits. i let people go over the edits.

For example: small prints are hanging up on the wall in my studio in Belgium, natural light, almost clinical, moving around constantly as my mood changes, like an ever-growing edit;

opposed to that,

yesterday night, Taka-san, dear friend and fixer for this project, held this first book dummy in his hands in his tiny smoky four-person-max-occupancy bar in the red light district in Tokyo at 1 a.m., leafing through it over beers in a steady pace, in low light, sometimes pausing, sometimes asking a question. Nodding affirmatively, sometimes even emotional. Then my brother Malik, Taka-san and i light a cigarette, have a beer, and fall silent.

Which situation would you prefer?


Jeez that was elaborate... Basically only to say that it feels different to see someone literally hold your images in their hands in a book in a far away place in the middle of the night, making their own unique story while leafing through....