Inside The Yakuza: Anton Kusters

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“My project is not a journalistic one: It is a conceptual documentary project showing the impressions that I had as an outsider being allowed to witness and photograph their closed world for two years.” -Anton Kusters

Despite Mario Puzo and Martin Scorcese’s portrayal of the Corleone family and the Mafia in post-war America, I am much more fascinated by the yakuza of Japan. Perhaps it’s merely because, as an American, I don’t know as much about them. Members of the Mafia feel more like thugs, whereas the yakuza seem to be steeped much more in tradition, and, perhaps, a higher degree of honor than La Cosa Nostra. Then again, that may just be my perception. What isn’t just perception is the amount of power the yakuza hold and the amount of wealth they control. In 2010, The New York Times estimated that they controlled approximately 22 trillion yen (about $242 billion). Photographer Anton Kusters had the chance to go where few, if any, photographers before him ever have, at least to this degree. Kusters spent 10 months negotiating before ever being allowed access to the yakuza, then spent two years photographing them, all part of his book project, called ODO YAKUZA TOKYO. He was provided a steward to teach him how to behave as says they were able to establish a relationship that gave him the ability to witness and photograph everything and relied on what he calls “a thumbs up” approach, where both parties had to agree on the images. Kusters says, “This led to a balanced bidirectional relationship. … Over the course of two years, there has been not one single image that they did not agree to. The moment they understood the artistic direction of the images and the story I was telling, the book I was creating, they knew my intentions were not journalistic but artistic.”


Yakuza - Anton Kusters

Yakuza - Anton Kusters Yakuza - Anton Kusters Yakuza - Anton Kusters Yakuza - Anton Kusters

Yakuza - Anton Kusters
[via NPR]

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