Photographer Anton Kusters Discusses Shooting The Yakuza

Talking to Steward Magazine, Kusters has discussed his recent photo book chronicling his interactions with the Japanese mafia

odo yakuza tokyo

odo yakuza tokyo

Photographer Anton Kusters spent two years working with a yakuza group in Japan, culminating in the publishing of his book Odo Yakuza Tokyo in 2011, which is currently in its second printing. Kussers has talked to Steward Magazine about the process, of how he made contact with the gang, and of photographing them. It seems as though being part of an art project played to the pride of his subjects, but the pressures on him were immense. As he tells it:

I was extremely nervous. Since they are gangsters, I thought I should be very careful, in case I shot something I wasn’t supposed to see. But this actually upset the gang. They saw my nervousness as disrespectful. I remember one time early on this guy pulled me aside and said, “You are here to take pictures. Act like a professional.” It turned out they respected me if I was really aggressive about getting a certain shot. To not take photos was a sign of weakness.

Kusters portrays the yakuza as a comparatively benign, white-collar organization, in contrast to some of the more brutal reporting that you'll see elsewhere. This has caused some to accuse him of brushing over some of the more distasteful aspects of the organization.

Kusters has more images up on his website, and regardless of what you think about how he portrays the yakuza, the photography is incredible — and the stories of his time there equally so.

If you like Kusters' work, in a similar vein is Jocelyn Bain Hogg's work with British gangsters in The Firm and The Family.

[image via The Awesomer]