I thought this was worth a mention: for an interview about my 893-Yakuza project, which will appear in the forthcoming January issue of Fotografie, a Dutch photography magazine, The Editor-in-Chief Diana Bokje (@dianabokje) does something special... not only does she print an interview which captures our various conversations very well, but she also reproduces 5 complete spreads directly out of 893 Magazine Issue#1, including original layout and texts. Simply amazing that someone not only recognizes but also acts upon the the link between images, layout, typography and writing in the 893-Yakuza project... which is so important... She already knows that I really appreciate this opportunity, but yet again: kudos.... Below are the spreads as they're appearing: I'll find out if there's a way to order the issue online, and I'll let you know. a
Members of other families arriving at the funeral of Miyamoto-san (one of the family bosses) to pay their respects. Miyamoto-san died in february 2010, as a result of a stroke.Read More
So we made it. A tremendous collaborative effort between David Alan Harvey, Diego Orlando, Anna-Maria Barry-Jester, all the photographers featured, and yours truly. We created, printed and published our first book over at BURN Magazine, and we named our baby "BURN.01". Three hundred pages of pure blood, sweat, tears & pride... I'm tremendously proud of the stunning work by all the photographers in there, and the fact that we were able to pull it off. The book is literally flying out the door... We printed a first edition of a thousand copies, and at the rate things are going, we'll be sold out pretty fast. Not bad for a first book :-) Below are some images: the first page of every essay in the book. In no particular order, so enjoy... (images © copyright the respective photographers) It's a true collector's item, so please... order your copy, spread the word, and support us in our burning cause of giving emerging photographers the best f*cking platform on earth, and rocking the boat of all photography world...
This is Soichiro driving me through the streets of Shinjuku, Tokyo, in his third generation 1989 Nissan GT-R Skyline. It's all white and retro as hell and yes, even though I'm not a car freak, I must admit it's very cool. I like retro. Click on the image to see a short video of me trying to capture the moment. I never even knew he bought the car, and on the last night that I was there two weeks ago, while my brother and I were walking in Kabukicho debriefing the past shoot, he casually asked: "fancy a little drive?" A little drive indeed. There were traffic jams everywhere in Tokyo, so we had to cut our drive short. In the footage you can see me in the rearviewmirror, desperately trying to hold the camera still... ...which obviously didn't work.
A few months ago, I entered Blurb Photography Book Now without any expectations... And suddenly, 2 weeks ago, I got a call from Eileen from Blurb. At that time I was in Japan for the YAKUZA project, right in the middle of photographing a covert training camp for young recruits. When I explained my potentially slightly precarious situation to her, she understood why I wasn't able to jump up and scream "Yeah!".... ...but we had a great whispery conversation after that :-)
Needless to say, I feel incredibly honored to have won in the Editorial Category, and I'm going to make the most of it to push this project forward as much as I can... Remember the "playing wide" post a while ago... Here's a sneak preview of what I have in store: First and foremost, there'll be an issue of 893 Magazine every 6 months as long as the project goes. That means that in roughly two months time you will be able to buy a new 893 issue... I'm still debating on whether the shape and form should be radically different than the first issue. There are pros and cons to that approach... so I guess I'll keep it as a surprise :-)
Secondly, my brother and I recently got permission to shoot video during the project. This obviously presents a huge opportunity to add depth to this project, and makes producing a documentary feature film suddenly become a possibility. A lot of legwork will be required to pull this one off, especially because photography and video require such a different approach... but I'm working on it. Malik and I are organizing test shoots to see how it will work out, and so we have some raw material to approach production companies for help.
Thirdly, about a month ago, I entered negotiations for an encompassing 893 - Yakuza exhibit as well... I can't disclose too much information just yet, because it's all still in its infancy, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will work out. My contact is a great guy who is an absolute expert on Asia. In this exhibition I will create an immersive experience with images, video, sound and graphic design/typography... Stay tuned for more info on this one.
Alongside the above, I'm also producing many more things that I hope will be successful in spreading the word. Again, tight lips here for now, but announcements will follow very very soon, like, in a couple of days... --- post scriptum For those who have bought the previous edition of the first issue of 893 Magazine (not available anymore), I have a special treat: as it suddenly became a limited first edition of 89 (with 3 copies for myself, so an edition of 89+3), I'll personally sign and number and send you your copy back, if you send it to me first.
I know it's a bit weird to do it this way, but that's because I couldn't dream of predicting winning Blurb PBN... I'll number according to your wishes, on a simple "first come, first serve" basis (meaning, the book that actually arrives at my home first, by whatever means), with the first 3 numbers being reserved. email me for my home address at anton[at]antonkusters.com, and I will send you detailed instructions immediately. "Send it, make it limited" could be the catch phrase here :-)
Oh. and thank you all dearly for your support....
ever so appreciated.
In February of this year, I got a call from Soichiro for an emergency. One of the most important family bosses, Miyamoto-san, had suffered a fatal stroke. His death was imminent.
I pretty much dropped everything, and jumped on the plane to Tokyo. Even though he had kept very much to himself and always remained camera-shy, I had observed, gotten to know, and photographed the man for over 12 months; to see him lying there in that hospital bed, in a coma with no chance of recovery, felt very...
The greater context of him being part of a Yakuza family was not relevant to me at that point. I saw before me a dying man. I touched his hand, I talked to him about the little time we had spent together, hoping he'd hear me.
I go to visit him three days in a row. On the third night, at 2.30am, he dies. I offer the family my condolences in the only possible way I can: I look for and print all images I made of him before, and over the course of the next days, during the week long private wake, I repeatedly bring images to them.
His girlfriend and older brother are grateful, and allow me to document the traditional Buddhist rituals surrounding the funeral that is about to take place. But even then, most images I feel I shouldn't show, they seem too intimate. I'll think it over.... time will tell. Perhaps in the greater context of the story I'm telling they'll find their place.
It was cold those days, and I was underdressed.
I thought I'd share three contact sheets. A "succesful" one, a "nope, I've not quite got it yet" one, and a sudden "hmm maybe there's a new angle somewhere in here" one.
(the difference in color between individual images is due to the fact that I only post process images that pass "first edit")
Once in a while I should write about some tech stuff... and what other topic than the one that us visual artists care most about: our archives, and by extension, our photo archive system...
Many articles on the web about this, but I've always felt that they assume incorrect things. Obviously I don't want to go as far as being safe for Extinction Events, or being able to administer my archive on my 1987 Nokia phone... let's say that I stay within certain limits of reason/feasibility, given the fact that I'm a one-man operation. I guess I'm writing this as much for myself as for others :-)
So what do I want to achieve? I want, once and for all, peace in my mind as to the archive of my images, videos, designs and products (magazines, books, posters, etc) (all four of which exist in both analog and/or digital form): that they are secured and controlled accessible.
I want this to be the case for past work, and "live" work that I am doing right now (because of the long term projects I'm involved in). And obviously I want to be able to add future projects.
For that, I have sketched out an archive system, both digital and analog, both online and offline, both home and somewhere else. I believe that this combination offers me the greatest flexibility in working, security for my archived work, and accessibility for others involved. As always, it is a combination of things, tailored precisely to the kind of person I am and the knowledge I possess.
It is that archive system that I'll be describing here over a series of posts. This first article can serve as an introduction, touching base with different aspects with as much common sense as possible. These are (loosely) the topics that I'll dive into:
- Description, purpose & terminology
- Archive typology + relationships
- File typology + relationships
- Keywording + IPTC meta data
- File naming + Folder structure
Note the above should work for digital as well as analog: go ahead, read the above topics again, while thinking of film or original prints in a fireproof cabinet of sorts.
I'm not intending to get into debates which technology is best, or which system is better: yes, of course online storage is only 99.99% secure, of course buying all hard disks from the same brand is slightly more risky, of course we don't really know (yet) if archival quality ink jet prints actually will last 100+ years. And the list goes on. My main point here is: if I make a good combination of all these "ninety-nine percents", and then relate them to my particular situation, and given the fact I can tweak along the way by adding or changing parts, then i will de facto achieve my optimal "mix".
Important is that I believe that every archive system should be tailored towards the particular situation of every photographer... Many photographers will have different particulars.... Mine are as follows:
- I travel a lot
- I own a house
- I know technology
- I use a laptop + external disks for at least part of the process
- I create digital (images, video, design, text) and analog (images, video, design, text) content, often mixed
- I work with "stories", "projects" and "products"
- I have limited time
- I'm not rich :-/
Here is an abstract description of what my archive could be, given the above particulars:
My work is stored across several archives that differ according to type, format, location and accessibility. Every archive contains a number of files that each have a floating status, format, type, date and a fixed identifier.
What is the reason that I even have an archive in the first place?
The purpose of my archive is to offer security for the original files and master files, workability for the edit files, and accessibility for the copy files.
OK that was the hardest part.... really. To be able to describe in abstract terms, means you have to have thought this through and tested it all the way to the end: the above description and the purpose were the last things that I distilled after sketching and testing the whole system.
Again, this description or purpose can be very different for others... this is just what I feel is optimal for the way I live, the way I work, and the way I do business.
So now an explanation of the terms used above. Again, I cannot stress enough to think both digital AND analog.
Archive Type: On one side we have an EDIT and a DEF archive, on the other side we have a LIVE archive, a BACKUP archive, or a VAULT archive. More about this terminology later, but both the EDIT archive and the DEF archive are live, backed up, and vaulted.
Archive Format: Digital format (HDD, memory card, optical media,...) or Analog format (acid free box with images, filing cabinet, folder,...)
Archive Location: The physical location of the archive
Archive Accessibility: How can the archive be accessed: secured physically, digitally, location, connected to power, connected to internet....
File Status: Original (singular), Edit (work in progress), Master (edition, multiple), Version (connected to job/story/project)
File Type: Digital, Print, Film or Tape
File Format: Digital formats (DNG-RAW-PSD-TIF-JPG || MOV-AIFF-MP3 || TXT-INDD-AI-PDF || etc...) and Analog formats (paper type, film type, chemical type, ink type, press type...)
File Date: Creation date of the Master File (or Original File, if it is the Original File)
File Identifier: A unique serial number
Security: Protection against loss/damage/theft
Workability: Optimal circumstance to be able to work with the archive and its files, depending on the situation
Accessibility: Levels of accessibility by myself vs. other people (physical and virtual)
Floating: can change over time until a Master or a Version is reached
Fixed: Does not change after original creation date
Phew. Enough already... Next time more in detail about archive type, format, location and accessibility.
An interesting footnote: Getting this solution op and running will need an initial investment of max $5,ooo (hardware, software, online storage), and 6 months of work (given the fact that I keep on working my projects as I usually do). It seems like a lot of trouble, but once up and running, this can all be integrated into my standard workflow without extra time needed for future projects, and an annual cost of less than $1,000 (mainly projected estimates of buying hardware and sofware updates and paying for online storage).
The hardest part, as usual, is consistently keywording and captioning works. Don't we all hate doing that one....
A long overnight flight home is always a good time for introspection.... and for counting blessings.
(especially in a window seat at the emergency exit, with a full moon outside :-)
I feel blessed being able to do the things I am doing... blessed for the health of my family... and blessed that, even though we are literally scattered throughout the world, once every so often, we suddenly appear to be together in one geographical place - simply enjoying being.
This time round has been extraordinarily difficult in Tokyo. It has been my longest trip to date (a full month), yet a slew of practical things and unforeseen circumstances have made me go home without a single usable image...
Yes looking at it this way it seems frustrating... But, oddly enough, in hindsight, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be... concentrating on the stuff that comes after shooting the images, proved to be very fruitful. Oh, and of course this very same situation gave me time to get the first issue of 893 magazine out there.... A milestone for me.
For some reason, this time we could not get a quick “hello I’m here” meeting with Yamamoto Kaicho, something which we normally always do first thing.
We walked the streets to the places we knew they would hang out, hoping to run into him. But we ended up walking around for over a week....
The area that they control is geographically very compact, yet it proved impossible to even catch a glimpse of anyone's whereabouts. Very surprising for a sub culture so openly integrated into Japanese society.
At first I felt really bad in my little room in Kabukicho... waiting for something to happen. This is not the sort of project where you can make anything happen... you follow the agenda, you do not set it.
And then there was the rain.
During these many room confined Tokyo nights, I often thought about which role photography I felt should be playing in my life, and how attainable that goal actually is.
I mean, we all want to feel like we live “purely” from photography, don’t we? Yet everyone knows that nowadays photography alone (generally speaking) can hardly pay the bills.
But... I wonder... should one ever allow that to be the driving force for a decision to do or to not do?
I've always thought that, when making these kind of decisions, one should always, at least for the sake of argument, make abstraction of money...
Or am I being too idealistic here? I mean, of course I know I should keep doing some “other” things to support myself financially... playing wide... Yet I do feel the incredible urge to chuck out everything not directly relevant to photography. Even though I know that all this "other" makes me the person I am today... including my photographic vision.
I guess it's all about finding the balance and slowly growing in a certain direction, keeping as much life energy as you can... as opposed to cutting away stuff that you don't seem to like at first sight... Positive versus negative decisions.
All's well that ends well.... eventually our meeting did come through, vows were strengthened, and new appointments were made for the future, and I got to hang out again... everyone involved still very much into the story as ever before... And I'm heading back out soon.
I wonder how "wide" a photographer should be playing these days. It seems obvious to me that the time has passed that a photographer is merely required to make a good image.
Input has expanded from photography to video, internet, graphic design, writing,... Output has grown from just "a book" to a smart mix of different things that make up a whole experience (book, magazine, video, multimedia, website, gallery, exhibition, ...)
... and all of it seems to be crucially important. To be able to "widen your output" as a photographer, seems to me to require not only many more "input" skills than you are used to, but more importantly clever thinking what to "output" and how to combine those elements.
After I designed my magazine, I felt the need to be able to take my images further than just treating them as "photographs" in the traditional way. Not that the magazine is incomplete in any way, don't get me wrong... it's absolutely perfect... but it is also just one of the many parts of the story that is Yakuza.
(FYI the BOOK will be incredibly beautiful and relevant when it hits the presses -- for which I'm going to need some very specific help -- but more on that next time)
I feel that by adding the stories I tell to my images, in a different way than is possible online, is an incredible enrichment to the story. So I designed a magazine that combines all the above into a package, the way that I actually envision it to be:
I'm not going to lift the veil just yet regarding other things that I'll be doing while "playing wide"... but 893 Magazine gets the honor of being first in line.
So as of now I'm selling it as a hardcopy. Exciting... I'll publish an issue twice a year, as long as the project goes.
I've worked on it for two months solid, and set the price at what I think it should be... so go ahead... indulge, enjoy... and please spread the word! post it to your blog, twitter it, call up your mom or shout it out in the streets... I depend on your help getting word out there. Seriously.
In light of my recent win at Blurb's Photography Book Now contest, I've changed the above link to the new Blurb version of the same Issue. Those of you who ordered and received the original first edition of the first issue, you now actually own a very limited edition of my first publication... Hang on to it! More information here…
Yes I know, it's a big plunge - this is my first step to carve my way into independently publishing my work.
Obviously this is only the tip of the iceberg, and getting the complete Yakuza project out there will take on many shapes and forms. I'm just secretly hoping that 893 Magazine will gain enough momentum with you buying and spreading the word.......
So there it is. You guys have the scoop. With hopefully many more to come.
Ever since I started this project over a year ago, there has been one particular recurring moment which I, to date, have not been able to gain access to: the monthly general meeting.
(You're right, I also would've guessed that most of the other things I've witnessed up till now, would be harder to gain access to than a seemingly straightforward meeting...)
But thinking deeper, obviously there must be a reason: I can just picture all ranking family members being in the same room at the same time, for one, and then I imagine the plethora of sensitive information being shared and discussed, the various briefings and debriefings, business and accounting reports, schedules and what not.
Not that i would understand a single word of it if I tried... but I kind of understand their predicament.
But I have persisted for over a year now, and I quietly show up every time, patiently waiting outside the door for the right moment to come. Members trickle in... Glances and greetings are exchanged, respects paid, and short conversations started... Waiting for the bosses to arrive. Then everyone goes inside, the door is closed and the meeting begins.
And I stand outside.
I know I will get in eventually and be allowed to photograph. I'm engaged in that typical subtle Japanese game of "showing that I would like to do something without openly asking for it" (because if I did, I obviously would owe the person I asked a favor, and this thing would lead to another to another to another... generally a situation desirable to avoid).
In the mean time, I enjoy the moment of peace and quiet while watching the Koi in the hallway. These are often the moments that I look back and forward at the same time, reminiscing my place in this world and the place of this project in my life.
Outside, barely a few feet away, the ever-living city passes by.
I arrive early. I've hitched a ride with two young recruits who will be trained here. I have no idea where we are, other than that we are at the beach somewhere, several hours away from Tokyo. We park the car and head on to the compound.
It's a regular little seaside town, and the place we're staying in is a traditional Japanese guest house. We walk up to the late Miyamoto-san, who is in charge of the annual organization, and greet him. He's going over the daily routine together with Nakata-sensei.
Nakata-sensei is a master swordsman and martial arts teacher, who has fought in the Afghan war in the 1980's by training the Mujahedin in different combat and sword fighting techniques. He is here to teach the recruits meditation techniques, unarmed and armed combat, and bodyguard practice.
4.30 am. Wake-up time. Every morning there is a meditation session on the beach, right at the water's edge. All recruits and a dozen family members are sitting in the sand at equal distances from one another. While Nakata-sensei corrects postures, everyone sits still, eyes closed, listening to the waves breaking on the beach, the mind empty.
At 5.30 am, still before breakfast, the first training of the day starts: Hand to hand combat techniques.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all prepared and eaten together. The food is a fresh as can be, fish caught in the ocean right outside the door. Everyone earns their keep by helping wherever they can.
There are three intense training sessions every day, and in between, exhausted, there seems to be no other option but to rest in the dorms. And with days starting this early, most recruits go straight to bed after dinner. Meanwhile, Nakata-sensei, Yamamoto Kaicho, Miyamoto-san and the other family members, drink a beer and discuss the schedule for the next day, which starts yet again by rising at 4.30am.
I'm exhausted, waiting at the entrance of the tiny bath house at the golf course near Narita, hoping to get in.
A couple of hours earlier, while we're teeing off, Soichiro tells me that playing golf is a good way to really really get to know someone. It's also one of the first things that Japanese businessmen do, and many business deals in japan are started, if not made, during a game of golf.
I feel ever so slightly uneasy knowing that i am, in part, being "measured up" here... but the beauty is that this is a double edged sword: i can do my own measuring too...
Yamamoto Kaicho has just finished his round, and arrives at the bath house. He gestures me to follow him in. I enter the first room, where I undress, put my clothes in one of the many little baskets, grab a small towel to scrub and proceed to the bath and shower area.
In the centre of the room I see a large hot bath with mineral-rich water from a hot spring, surrounded by showers facing the walls, each with a little stool and shower gear.
It's foggy in here.
The boss's bodyguard explains i should sit, shower, soap up and scrub first, then rinse, and only after that, go into the bath. Everyone sits together in the bath chatting, once in a while going back to the shower to scrub again, thereby letting the minerals in the water take maximum effect.
Tattoos are banned in many bath houses in Japan... originally this rule was made as a way of indirectly banning the Yakuza (as they were the only ones wearing tattoos). But as slowly more often people start wearing tattoos in Japan, this rule is becoming difficult to enforce. Nowadays, a family will often rent an onsen or sento privately, and all go together. Like now.
I didn't win the game of golf... not by a long shot. But somehow i felt that being able to hold my own, and at the same time talk about anything else but business, was way more important that being to focused on winning.
It's almost like the game in and of itself seemed irrelevant... and at the same time very relevant on a different level.
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....
Bright day. Early morning. A commemoration is to be held for a deceased family member.
The family is in charge of organizing the service. Before dawn, they set up a room with a white shrine and flowers... the family name as well as the person's own name is displayed above.
Guests and other families have been invited, and by sunrise they are slowly starting to arrive in order to pay their respects. To welcome them, the family of the deceased lines up alongside the room according to hierarchy, Yamamoto Kaicho first. Every member of the mourning family has a white paper flower attached to the jacket.
I stand in the doorway silently. I see the guests enter the room, burn incense for the departed, and say a prayer for his sake. After this, they proceed to an adjacent room where they sit and talk to the family boss, have a cup of tea, and smoke a cigarette.
At this point they pay their respects yet again by offering a ceremonial envelope with money inside. The precise amount of this gift is determined by a complex mixture of factors like relationships, business ties, a statement, personal friendships or past commemorations.
Souichirou tells me that often the deceased is mourned several times over different services, depending on practical circumstances, or even plain notoriety. I'm imagining the practical implications of organizing a single service in the center of a city with a Yakuza family consisting of several thousand members... In this case, it's the second commemoration, and also quite intimate. Nonetheless, the endless line of cars is quite impressive. There are several members on "traffic duty", redirecting (regular) traffic and providing parking space.
Every time the next line of cars approaches, Souichirou tells me which family it is, and a few words about or their relationship with them. I watch the members who are lower in rank exit their cars first, and form a line next to the road at the entrance of the shrine. A few seconds later, when the boss pulls up and exits his car, he is surrounded by family members. Everyone bows and greets while he walks past and enters the room.
The end of the day. It's over. The guests have gone, the rooms have been cleaned and everyone's ready to leave. Socho, the number one boss, is the first to go... his car drives up and he enters. Again, all members are lined up, this time to say goodbye. I feel a little uneasy, a tall westerner hanging around at the wrong place, having no clue what's going on.
The car is about to pass by, but then something happens: the car slows down to a stop, and the darkened back window opens to me. This is definitely not standard procedure, and quite a security risk too. I now see the godfather sitting there in his car, smiling and looking straight ahead. It takes me a second to realize why he does this... but then I get it.
I smile. I take the picture, I bow and pay my respects. The car drives off and disappears in the distance.