“I don’t think I have a visual style as a person. I might have a style in my way of approaching any given story, in the sense that I find it wonderful to be able to meet new people and learn from them new things, thoughts, points of view. Giving and learning from others is a crucial part in any project approach, much more than the ‘taking’ part.”
Anton Kusters is a photographer from Belgium. He is specialized in long-term projects, creating images, film, sometimes even words.
In addition to his work as a photographer, Anton Kusters is a graphic designer and internet specialist, who runs his own web design agency, and is a creative consultant at BURN Magazine. Anton Kusters studied photography in Hasselt, at the Academy of Fine Arts.
Among his most acclaimed series is “Yakuza”, which gives a rare look into an inaccessible subculture: a traditional Japanese crime family that controls the streets of Kabukicho, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan.
Interview with Anton Kusters
Anton, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
As a kid, with the compact camera from my mom. I did not become a photographer until decades later, though.
Why did you become a photographer?
I became a photographer because it is the way I can best make sense of the world happening around me, and how I relate to it.
What does photography mean to you?
At this point in time in my life, photography seems to be the language that I control best (albeit crudely) to tell the stories I feel the need to tell. And I need desperately to be able to tell stories.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
Photographers inspire me, but not only for their product (being their photographs). Photographers and all people inspire me for the way they are as artists, in small or in big ways: anyone who approaches something, however seemingly small or however large, with an open mind and outside the box.
Your favorite photography quote?
I have no idea about photography quotes, but the general idea of Henri Cartier-Bresson saying that if you’re lucky, you can make about 5 good photographs in a year (if I’m quoting correctly) is something that keeps reality in check for me.
How would you describe your photographic language?
It completely depends on what story I am telling and how I want to tell it. I don’t think I have a visual style as a person. I might have a style in my way of approaching any given story, in the sense that I find it wonderful to be able to meet new people and learn from them new things, thoughts, points of view. Giving and learning from others is a crucial part in any project approach, much more than the “taking” part. This is indeed a “way of working” much more than a “visual style”. Maybe one yields the other, I don’t know.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
I have never tried to do this consciously, and I don’t know if a “style” would even apply to me. I also don’t know if it even is a good thing to try to develop an own photographic style. It puts the focus on the wrong things. Try to develop a voice, an authorship, how you tell a story. If style is important, it will come automatically. Personally I try to tell the story as best as possible, and the way I tell the story is something that is an integral part to that.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
An intentional balance or unbalance between visual and story. Authorship. Voice.
How do you keep up to date with new developments in photography, to keep on learning new things?
I don’t really keep up, when I find a tool that allows me to express myself adequately, I usually stop looking and start expressing.
Digital or analog?
Digital is analog, analog is digital – so both. I don’t care which, and at the same time I deeply care.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Pinhole Polaroid, digital rangefinder, camera phone.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
I have no idea to be honest. I look for inspiration on many places, not particularly photography websites. I am closely involved with BURN Magazine, because I believe in the idea of giving back to photographers.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Find what you want to do, and be sure it is what you wish for because you will succeed in what you do. You will not fail.
You only have to make sure that what you are going after is actually is the thing you want to do. Most times when things fail it is because people had differing expectations. Aligning your expectations to reality is one of the hardest things to do.