Location: Brussels, Belgium
Anton Kusters is a photographer who specializes in long term projects, delivering immersive experiences with images, film and words. Kusters is always looking for interesting collaborations. He currently resides in Brussels and Tokyo. Not entirely unrelated, he is also a graphic designer and internet specialist, and runs his own web and interactive design agency. Kusters is also creative director at BURN Magazine.
I went to a photography academy in Belgium for three out of the four-year curriculum. In the fourth year, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a workshop by David Alan Harvey, which made me drop out of school and charge ahead instead. Before my photography studies, I had completed my masters degree in political philosophy and started up a web design company.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned either from a teacher or mentor?
David Alan Harvey, who’s my mentor, taught me to use a “two thumbs up” approach when doing long-term projects. Every picture I make, I present to the people I’m photographing, and they know they can veto any image for whatever reason they like. At the same time, they know that I can veto any image myself. In this way, there’s an immediate balance between photographer and subject, and this builds up good trust, which is crucial for any long-term project.
What was your first photography job?
Photographing flowers for a florist. It was wonderfully peaceful, and I sometimes long for those moments again.
What advice would you give to a photographer who is still in school?
Make sure you also learn the practical, business side of being a photographer. Also, if you can, spend as much time in the darkroom as possible, even if at first sight you don’t believe it’s relevant or even if you only have a digital camera. You should understand that being a photographer is only about 1% actually taking pictures.
What inspires you about photography?
Photography helps me understand myself and the world around me better.
What makes you go out and shoot?
That’s a hard one. I think at a certain point I can’t stand the gnawing thing inside me anymore, and I need to go out.
What do you like best about the whole process?
Meeting people, connecting to people, traveling, learning, feeling a bit like a little Tintin explorer on this rock we call Earth. Photography, although an integral part of that, almost seems as if it’s there in those moments by accident—but it’s there nonetheless.
What kind of camera equipment do you use?
I use a Leica M9 with a 35mm ƒ/1.4 lens; I only have one lens and one body. After using an SLR for a while, I felt like it was too big and too obtrusive for me.
What do you think it takes to be successful in today’s challenging and competitive marketplace?
Two things: First, work hard, and realize that your pictures are just fine—that your ability to take pictures is fine. Second, realize that what’s important is all the rest. Focus on building a career long term, not on the picture in front of your eyes.
To see more of Anton Kusters’s photography, go to www.antonkusters.com.