kusters_jul30_2017
Dear Ivan,

Perhaps sitting on a boat and watching the shore is a better perspective. Often I find myself wishing for more distance and less speed.

Sometimes I stand on the shore, look out to the sea and imagine setting out. Yet too many on this same sea have fled danger, and are looking at land appearing in the distance, seeking safe harbor. My impulse to leave all behind is dwarfed by the fate of those who were forced to do so. By what authority have I gained the space to pause and stare in the distance?

Yesterday I visited a fairy tale amusement park with my two godchildren. After a day of roller coaster rides, we entered into a vast indoor fantasy: an elven world, a gnomic world, a world of stars. We sat in a little hanging cart and floated silently past these carefully constructed fantasies, looking in awe at vast cities and civilisations, as distant, privileged witnesses from the sky. In that instant, I felt the urge to jump into that magic place, leaving behind all greed and cynicism and war. For a moment, the illusion was complete. Then a deep sadness fell over me, a sadness for all of us.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_Jul13_2017

Dear Ivan,

It seems as if a stage has been set in our conversation. I’m reminded of the master of all stage setting, Charles Chaplin, and specifically The Gold Rush. Seldom has there been a more delicate balance between humor and pathos.

Yesterday I was talking to children of Holocaust survivors. They, being older than myself and now in their late 60s, are considered what Eva Hoffman calls “second generation witnesses.” As children they received the emotional consequences of the extreme experiences of their parents. It wasn’t a processed, orderly passing on of knowledge It was  signs and eruptions of raw, splintered suffering, ever present in the privacy of their families.

One could say that these children are the unfiltered recipients of their parents’ trauma, their first imaginings and experiences bearing  a complex burden of information and emotion. A transmitted identification with parental feelings and burdens. The difficulties inherited by the second generation was not the experience itself, but its shadows.

A stage has been set I think. For the moment  it is empty, as if leveled by a nuclear blast, yet fraught with expectations and filled with memories. Expectations in the eyes of the audience, who look greedily at what is about to happen, their eyes clouded by the flickering images of their memories.

The the artist creates work as if it were a chrysalis, placing meaning inside, and leaving it to others to  nurture and hatch: the dragonfly, the moth, the butterfly, or the all-devouring, gorging locust.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_Jul03_2017

Dear Ivan,

I am just home from driving most of the Polish-Czech border, trying to find and photograph the blue skies above each of the 95 World War Two concentration camps of Groß-Rosen. The difference in ways of commemorating struck me, and even though I have no empirical proof, it seems that in Poland and the Czech Republic communities have moved on rather than commemorated.As if commemorating might mean standing still, or atrophy. So much so that, when I eventually did encounter a commemorating monument, it caught me by surprise. I’m now trying to understand why.

As I walked through the quarry at the Groß-Rosen concentration camp where prisoners were worked to death, I was struck by its resemblance to the marble quarry in Carrara which we photographed together last autumn. The same cut stone patterns, the same water basin below, the same void left in the mountain, its meaning assigned through the use of the extracted stone.

The process of slicing rock out of the earth is identical. A rock for a rock. I pointed my camera upwards and photographed another blue sky.

The mountain roads in that area aren’t always good. Frequent large potholes required my utmost concentration. As I scanned the tarmac immediately in front of me, everything else receded, the people, the houses, the distant landscape, any understanding, to an endless blur.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographersIvan Sigal andAnton Kusters@ivansigal and@antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_jun22_2017

Dear Ivan,

The irony of ruins that shall be preserved forever is in stark contrast with the deeply ingrained Japanese understanding of the impermanence of things, the circle of life, the passing of moments, most visibly embodied by the yearly bloom cycle of the cherry blossoms and the continuous rebuilding of the Ise Grand Shrine, which has been identically reconstructed every 20 years since 692.

Sixty-two times this wooden shrine has been remade in an elaborate ceremony, with identical materials and unchanged building techniques, on alternating adjacent plots of land. And every time, five years in advance, carpenters start preparing the hinoki cypress wood.

Monuments are usually built and erected with durable materials designed to last generations. In contrast, the Ise shrine is forever rebuilt. One looks at the shrine, knowing it is not the same. It is forever new and forever ancient simultaneously, born and reborn from parent to child, from child to grandchild, a continuous, unbroken line across generations.

And then there is the truth of Japan’s geology, on the crossroads of shifting tectonic plates in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Every day could be our last. The next one could be the big one. And the cherry blossoms return, forever impermanent.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_jun5_2017

Dear Ivan,

I imagine those lines in your images as an installation, as actual layers on the land below, an added dimension. Altering a site of trauma, a site with nothing left to see, by adding context wouldn’t be otherwise  visible. Laying down lines and arrows on the ground, shading areas and blurring others, a dark Christo.

As I’m immersed in the Second World War, your satellite view reminds me of a similar view, from the planes of the bomb squads themselves, looking through their precious Norden bombsights as they fly over cities from an unassailable position and drop death below. During the war, both Arthur Harris and Curtis LeMay staunchly defended and executed the new tactic of bombing civilian populations. They believed that this would shorten the war, if only for a day. Victory is near. How hollow it was.

In effect, they set morality aside in a time that needed it most. History judged the countless bombing victories a devastating senseless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destroying millions of homes, and rarely harming any military-industrial complex. The terms “precision bombing,” “collateral damage” and “necessary evil” all were invented. And so was napalm.

All the while, entire populations reckon with a new reality: death from above. Running frantically in the destroyed cities of Europe, ghosts in their destroyed homes , incessantly looking for shelter, safety and surviving relatives. Having no home and  not being able to flee. Four hundred million cubic metres of rubble.

And from above, dismissive statements such as “there are no innocent civilians.” Cold calculations of how many civilians lives are worth a certain strategic advantage. The arrogance of Truman at Potsdam, already having decided to show his power over Japan, just a few days later.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_May192017
Dear Ivan,

This morning here in London I walked and watched and thought for awhile. Rain was predicted but the sun was still shining and I enjoyed that moment, almost like a reprieve. As I was walking I suddenly realised that I’d how much I’d been struggling with the question of how to show my work. And while I know this is crucial, I felt a strong urge to make work again. They shouldn’t be opposites, but for a minute they felt that way.

Your image reminds me of Ulrich Baer’s attempt to link photography and trauma. How an image of an empty landscape can reflect upon trauma that has previously taken place in that location. At the same time, as a viewer, one is forced to see that there is nothing to see. In many ways this is exactly the opposite of the image of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, which shows trauma, rather than its abstraction.

Of course, an image is by definition always a slice of time. Photography’s everlasting crux. With Fenton the image is deliberately – or necessarily – disconnected from the trauma itself. This disconnect forces us to approach the issue differently, introducing the concept of time, memory, and forcing us to face our preconceived positions.

Roger Fenton’s early war landscapes come to mind. He does not photograph the bodies of Crimean war dead, but captures the landscape of Sevastopol; cannonballs as evidence of battle. Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade, his valley of the shadow of death, now captured on glass.

Fenton intervenes. We have two nearly identical images of the valley, one with cannonballs on the road, and one without.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

29 April 2017

kusters_apr27_2017
Dear Ivan,

One’s moral duty is easy to understand on a personal level: do not do upon others. How can we factor in the right of future generations to be born, the safety of an entire planet, and hold ourselves accountable to a current ethical standard that also reasonably must include them?

Plato makes me think of the problem of knowledge and Karl Popper’s critique of Plato’s vision. Our struggle with the meaning of justice makes me think of Rawls’ reflective equilibrium. We should continually be aware of, reflect upon and be prepared to update our moral position.

It was a long time ago, and probably I understood too little, but I held onto  the difference between the belief that one can find and describe absolutes in morality, philosophy and political thinking, instead of the approach that time and context is a factor that creates a  flux in our thinking, morals and ethics.

Immanuel Kant died before Charles Darwin was born. Defining a categorical imperative without the context of On The Origin of Species?

We treat the question “what should we do” as an imperative, and we look to philosophy to provide us with a reasonable answer, or at least a frame for thinking. I struggle too. But the seeker will not find solace, because there is no end point, not even a direction. There is only a journey with glimpses of the larger whole. What should we do? Do universal values exist? Is it possible to strictly separate factual observations from value judgements? Is mankind predictable or free? As long as we do not stall, atrophy, become pillars of salt.

Imagine Nicolaus Copernicus, staring out the window at the stars, wondering whether to publish his manuscript with comments on the revolutions of heavenly spheres, or to just let it be. Everybody was going to make a fuss about it anyway.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal@antonkusters on Instagram ///

17 April 2017

kusters_apr16_2017

Dear Ivan,

Maybe E was looking back to see if her daughters were following, and then inadvertently witnessed that destructive, divine power. Punished for simply witnessing.

The tendency to conceal our actions seems to be more important than justifying them. This behavior strengthens my belief that bearing witness may be one of the most powerful moral actions.

Avoiding public shame and fear of separation from the group has been ingrained in us since the beginning of humankind. The basic need to be accepted by others, purely for survival. Being cast out meant being left to die, and it is thought that this biological trigger is still present today.

In society, we cocoon ourselves, hoping that we aren’t singled out. We interfere in nothing out of fear of reprisal. We avert our eyes, and deny the moment.

Everyone screams “dastardly” and “cowardly”. Yet we’re equally dismissive both of people who try to hide their acts and people who avert their eyes. But I suspect things aren’t that simple. Maybe it’s about the way we choose to live, not about the results we wish to achieve.

The absolute pacifist may consider it unethical to use violence to help an innocent person who is being attacked and may be killed. Yet in thousands of years of fighting, we have failed to agree on the meaning of a just war.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies Homo Sapiens as “LC – Least Concern” for extinction, only rivalled in their scale of world domination by ants.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

28 March 2017

kusters_Mar28_2016

Dear Ivan,

This weekend I was carrying around a too-heavy backpack on my shoulders, stuffed with objects I wanted to show to others. Eager to the point of physical pain. I walked from one place to the other, relentlessly carrying my treasures, as if the solution, the truth, my completeness, was packed inside.

On the afternoon of May 2nd 1945, the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division liberated the SS concentration camp of Wöbbelin in Germany. The next day, General James M. Gavin ordered the citizens of the neighbouring towns to walk an inspection tour through the camp, forcing them to witness and acknowledge what they allowed to happen: a thousand bodies, starved to death in barely 10 weeks, unburied.

An audience watching a horrifying scene of an audience watching a horrifying scene. The gasp. The hand on the heart. If ever there was emptiness after. I cannot help but wonder how this forced social act of witnessing would look today, seventy-two years later, were it to repeat. The camera as a gun, the violence of the gaze, witnessing the witnessing.

I never opened my backpack. What mattered was small and light and in my inside jacket pocket, a single image with no context except the one I had chosen to give. I felt liberated, at the same time acknowledging the weight I chose to carry, and knew I would continue to bear.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_mar5_2017

Dear Ivan,

I recognise the muteness you describe all too well. I’m often not even traveling when it occurs.

Your image could be the inverse of mine: the gaze of the audience, the all-seeing eye, unflinching. We’ve nowhere to hide. We feel watched, and that changes our behaviour profoundly.

The audience might indeed be the key. They are the witnesses, the judges. They interpret, they are the context, without which the act itself becomes meaningless.

Yet the audience is not on the stage, and therefore the context and the judgment it imposes upon the act is by definition incomplete, shortsighted, relying solely on extrapolation of past experiences. They’d have to have switched places, like Damocles and his king Dionysius.

This act of bearing witness, especially to trauma, is something that deeply affects me. And  photography is often  considered exactly that. Bearing witness, meaning not only seeing, but more crucially, interpreting, and then representing.

But how can I possibly bear witness to trauma that I haven’t experienced? How can I add my interpretation to this immense absence?

The slingshot, the falling of Goliath, but also two armies watching their protagonists fight. The armies an audience, each side ready to surrender and accept a new reality based on the outcome before their eyes. The fate of nations decided, a sword hanging by the hilt above their leaders, from a single hair of a horse’s tail.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

4 February 2017

kusters_feb4_2017

Dear Ivan,

The boy stands on the stage. Silent. Mute. He cannot speak, yet he has a world to say. His arms limp beside him like a shirt hanging out to dry on a day too hot with no wind, the sun beating down, everything heavy, even that one white linen shirt that moves in the slightest breeze. He stands  still as a statue, commemorating, contextualising present with past. The spotlight blinds him.

The audience disappears before his eyes. He is alone now. Inside himself. Time slows down until things barely seem to move at all. The audience fascinated. This very instant, in these too young and powerless arms, in these blind eyes, in this mute voice, the boy holds an impossibility. Breathing halts.

Then he begins. Carries and shapes the weight of an entire world. For what he feels. The audience resists, unwilling to hand over what they remember once shaping and carrying in the same way. They see their own blindness reflected, their own powerless arms, their own mute voices. They see the boy fighting as they fought. With everything he’s got.

The boy stands on the stage. But he does not wait to receive. He has already taken what is his. He is already speaking. He can already see. His arms are already powerful, already shaping the world to come. It is the only way. Standing on many shoulders, he trusts with his life, and demands the same.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///
18 January 2017

kusters_Jan18_2017

Dear Ivan,

We need life curators to survive. We trust them to pre-process raw data to information to meaning, so we can spend less energy having to do it ourselves. And we fulfill this role for others, too. It’s a simple and effective survival system which saves time and energy, and scales. We give our trust to others because we need to, and because it works.

Life is indeed a dream. All other times, we’re wading through the molasses of reality, with never a full sense of the complete context surrounding us. But then again, it would be intolerable to be fully aware all the time. It would be impossible to process. We’d be stifled by the thought of every catastrophic butterfly effect we’d set in motion. We’d be rendered still, immobilised for fear of future history.

Our minds unfreeze us by refusing to see  realities that we know are there but take up too much processing time to continually foreground. We learn to estimate the boundaries within which we operate, and our awareness of overlapping contexts, our ability to think inside a different one and our willingness to do so, defines us.

We could conclude that we’re in a dream inside this reality. Like a kaleidoscope we apply a personal great filter to everything we see. We force meaning onto reality with great ease, changing and colouring it along the way, shaping ourselves subconsciously over a lifetime, continually adding to or subtracting from the weight we carry, giving us wings or chaining us to the ground.

No reality will stand between us and what we want to see.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

5 January 2017

kusters_jan5_2017

Dear Ivan,

I’ve often fallen victim to this moral anxiety as well, fruitlessly trying to be efficient and organised, with the myth being that one can thereby be in control. It seems to be closely related to the recent adage of “being busy”. I often catch myself feeling that anxiety whenever I can’t display a kind of “busy-ness” I see others projecting.

But being busy is rather a wish to be perceived a certain way. It is a most meaningless statement, at best a mask to avoid social disapproval.

Again that wish to be perceived in a certain way, made clear by our hopeful actions to achieve status within a group, historically the group of people physically around us, now a worldwide group of billions on social media. Yet it seems that our continuous and superfluous attempts to construct a reality around ourselves haven’t evolved in the same way as the complexity and magnitude of our communication contexts.

A similar problem existed in The Great War of 1914-1918. New weapons of destruction introduced a previously unimaginable scale and means of killing, and we did not know how to cope. Our strategies and tactics were ancient by comparison, reminiscent of pre-modern war. I found it very interesting to learn that this massive discrepancy between weapons and tactics is one of the principle reasons for the death toll in World War I.

We refuse to accept that we actually have no clue what we’re doing. Maybe wisdom is just that: not knowledge by itself, not the elusive Homo Universalis embodied by Michelangelo, but the understanding that we are extremely limited in our knowing. Wisdom might be the sensitivity to understand not things, but the why of things.

I’m having coffee and staring at the tablecloth pattern before me.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

14 December 2016

kusters_dec14_2016

Dear Ivan,

The crane in the distance turns slowly, delivering its load. I’ve always been partly perplexed by cranes, not because of my youthful wish to be a cool crane operator, but because they just never seem to be in operation. You see them move on some days, and even then quite slowly. Observations from a distance of course, we know that the efficiency of using a crane is many factors larger than continually hauling things by hand.

I used to work at a printing press as a pre-press operator and graphic designer. The sheetfed offset presses in the next room had in my mind a much simpler efficiency gauge: they needed to be kept running 24/7. Every minute a press didn’t run, we could tell exactly how much money we were losing. We quickly learned not to make any typesetting errors.

The huge presses, up close with their deafening sounds, churning out 12,000 copies per hour, or the tiny crane in the distance moving slowly, lazily. Both fulfilling their efficiency potential, the only difference being my coincidental – and one could say ignorant – viewpoint. It’s all about perspective, how I look at things, from which distance, where I come from, where I’m going, who I am.

Cranes and presses are easy. But what about people, society, culture, family, history? The unavoidable conclusion is that there’s no possible way that I could be looking objectively at anything. I am by definition subjective, a complex, ever-changing aggregate of the influences bestowed upon me since birth.

I fly through my reality with much the same sensation of speed, connecting, asking questions, trying to understand, all the while bombing with my judgements, and the incessant worry that I am not as wise as I should be.

In the cockpit the sun blinds me. I press the shutter and release another bloody blossom maker, and hope for salvation.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

27 November 2016

kusters_nov27_2016

Dear Ivan,

Time indeed appears to be slowing down. The Japanese mono no aware, the cycle of life, the acceptance of fleeting moments, is an unstoppable force, gently nudging me toward introspection.

This stock-taking also requires that we rationalise the world around us. We turn it inside out to see how we fit within it, and where we might be heading.

We can only understand what we can describe with language, and we also have an impossible draw to move in those parts of the world that affirm our existing beliefs. It is a fragile, and possibly flawed circle. Checks and balances, as  for those who govern us, are also needed for ourselves. Do we delude ourselves in blind optimism? Or do we stifle ourselves, believing in our own powerlessness? However hard I try, I cannot break out of the bubble of my own continually fluid reality.

Once in awhile, a tiny event pushes me momentarily out of my bubble and I glimpse another way of seeing. Those events are rare, and offer  a window into an impossibly complex reality; one I could almost believe to be more true.

In those moments I sense the complexity of my reality, but I cannot hold on to it long enough to dissect it, take it in, learn. And then in order to do that I have to use the same flawed rationalisation that those moments helped dispel. So I learn to accept the gentle sadness of recognising a moment soon to pass.

I can’t wait for the snow. I love the fleeting, equalising veil it lays down over reality. The colonised, the broken, the hibernating.

Oh, by the way: Hamilton or Rosberg? I like them both.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

27 October 2016

kusters_oct27_2016

Dear Ivan,

I ran into a long lost friend recently. We see each other regularly, but not very often. Let’s say, once every couple of years. Just long enough to have bigger things to catch up on.

I often worry about not having the means to create as much as I’d like, forcing me to shelve ideas in my mind and hopefully preserve them. When projects finally get into the execution phase, I always feel that they have a speed that is alien to reality. I know it’s really only me and my perception of time, and my inability to not constantly be weighed down by the immediacy of things. Everything always seems to stand still, yet move so fast.

And then I meet my friend, and it’s been about two years. How’ve you been? OK and you? OK too, and what are you up to these days? This and this. — and you? This and this — and while she’s talking and I’m talking, she smiles and I do too. We realise that all’s well, that we have our ups and downs yes of course, but that we’re also slowly moving forward in a meaningful way.

The dark monster of immediacy is a paradox to me. Time itself is a constant thing, that cesium-133 atom relentlessly oscillating 9,192,631,770 times per second, ticking away tick-tock – do you realise that we only live for about 4500 weeks – but time experienced has cycles. Looking back on a life, I wish there were a way to measure those variables. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, maybe they should be called years instead of what years are now.

And now I’ve arrived at my first atomic half life. Everything from here on halved like carbon in ever-increasing speed, murderously halving the time I have left. Immediacy yet again.

A new manifesto. I hereby declare that time is precious, but not too precious. We’re only permitted to realise this preciousness every so often, so as not to be constantly frozen by it, frantically trying to hold on to something that is meant to be forever slipping through our fingers in the first place.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

6 October 2016

kusters_oct6_2016

Dear Ivan,

Glorification of the future is something I’ve been coming across a lot lately, especially now that I’m reading up on Metabolism, the Japanese architectural movement that rose from the tabula rasa that was Japan in the first half of the twentieth century.

The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, Japan’s imperialism in the 1930s and the firebombing and atomic bombing of cities in 1945 created vast, empty, laden landscapes.

Metabolism, rooted in left-wing ideals, saw in these happenings an opportunity to build the future. An architectural utopian dream of New Urbanism, with a core idea of biological sustainability and adaptability to change. The ever-present Japanese concept of impermanence, now embodied in architecture.

The architect Kenzo Tange, who led the movement, shifted Japanese architecture beyond the tension between functionalism and traditionalism. Metabolism disappeared after Expo ’70. Its greatest success, its core as  part of mainstream thinking about architecture and urbanisation, also became its demise.

Curiously,  the Metabolists published a manifesto in 1960. A statement made up of four essays by four members, each presenting their architectural vision.

A manifesto. It’s something we shy away from nowadays, for fear of making statements that we might need to recant. But maybe we need more of these theoretical artistic public statements.

Not to promote our work, but to talk about our intentions, our motives, our beliefs. We need once again to make bold claims for changes that we seek. Not that they need come true, but that they show a commitment, and original thinking about this world.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

25 September 2016

kusters_sept_25_2016

Dear Ivan,

For the longest time, something about those slippers on the porch of that abandoned house in Kyushu didn’t sit right with me. Who had placed them there, and why had they been left behind? it made no sense. Only much later did it occur to me that it was a subtle, powerful statement of powerlessness.

It must have been a final gesture. And that gesture must have been understood by every curious visitor thereafter. That abandoned house, worn by the elements, slowly falling apart, and yet the slippers stayed there, untouched on the doorstep, left in peace, a metaphor for something I didn’t fully understand.

The quiet of the agarikamachi — the wooden entrance sill. It is the symbolic threshold, the delimiter between two spaces, up from the kutsunugi-ishi — the shoe-removing stone — and then onto the raised wooden flooring of the room. There’s no way that the placement of those slippers was a coincidence.

That morning I managed an image, but it didn’t seem possible to fully capture the gesture of leaving one’s slippers behind to express an uncertain future. Maybe I should invent a new language, as with the Voynich manuscript, or Xu Bing in his Tiānshū and Dì Shu books: a text that nobody can understand, followed by a text that everyone can understand. What a feat.

I would have loved to sit with the couple on the day that they were leaving. Have a final cup of tea, open the sliding shutters of the veranda, and together stare into the distance. The impermanence of a moment of perfect symbiosis between the inside and outside world. The Imagism of Ezra Pound comes to mind:

“Do not move
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Let the wind speak. ⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ that is paradise.”

I’m sure the birds sang beautifully that morning.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

14 September 2016

kusters_sept14_2016

Dear Ivan,

Incipient age indeed. Maybe we should measure our age not in years and the expectancies that come along with them but in the frequency of irreversible things happening to our bodies and minds. The little resignations we make along the way, subconsciously stacking one on top of another until suddenly we realise and wonder.

This year was one of them. Three physical defects. On three separate occasions a physician told me there wasn’t much else to do but to accept. A too early decay. Nothing life-altering or threatening, but large enough to have to make adjustments.

It would be fascinating to x-ray an entire mountain. I picture a mountain like a head, the quarry like a mouth, the marble like a chipped tooth. Surveyors have had a difficult time estimating the remaining marble left inside the Carrara mountain because of all the rubble, but estimate that at the current rate of approximately a million tonnes cut away every year, there still is marble left for several centuries to come.

And of course your fig leaf makes me wonder what’s behind it. Fig leafs block our views, but only metaphorically  because we feel the urgency to know what lies ahead. But having a perfect view of our future won’t calm us. It’ll only make us want to change that path. We’ll never be content.

Maybe it’s the general attitude of walking towards instead of walking away  that resonates. Again, the difficult balance between history, present and future, or memory, feeling and hope. Who we are and who we want to be, and how desperately we cling on to the images we have of ourselves, the paths we want for ourselves.

The changing of a season. Accepting myself, not as perfect as I imagined, having turned my lensless eye on myself. Walking.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

5 September 2016

kusters_sept04_2016

Dear Ivan,

The potholes you describe, that reflex-like looking at only the moment, is exactly what I’ve been forced to do, having relentlessly driven 16,000 kilometres in the last month alone. The point gets hammered in pretty well along the way.

And I hate it. I hate seeing the world passing before my eyes, and failing to capture it. It pains me. Then I imagine having a thousand photographers, writers and videographers with me on the road. Then I imagine the depth, the breadth, the ocean of information that also they will fail to capture.

I calm down. I remind myself it is better to choose wisely and slice thin, but deep. As long as my memory holds.

But three years in and almost eight hundred camps later, my memory has blurred. Pinpoint the next location, drive, arrive, step out of the car, photograph the blue sky, step in the car, continue to the next location. Tyres wearing out. Pain in my bones. I’m tired, my friend. An endless wheel. My mind plays tricks on me. Is it one thousand seventy-four journeys? Or a thousand seventy-four destinations? For the first time in my travels, I accidentally arrived at the same destination twice.

Maybe this blurring is supposed to happen. Maybe this relentless grinding is the understanding that is offered me. Or maybe it’s a sign that nothing will come. Grind all you will. I just don’t know anymore.

I make triggers along the way however I can, and I hope that they will spark my memory later. And already, home, just forty-eight hours later, I need them to help me remember what I’ve seen. I’ve forgotten. I’m blurred. And I find myself reliving moments seemingly for the first time, physically divorced from the places I was just days ago. It scares me. Am I broken?

And on top of that, other fears blocking me from moving forward, afraid to make mistakes instead of just making them. And then the largest fear of all: standing still and losing an open mind.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

23 August 2016

kusters_aug23_2016

Dear Ivan,

Yes, often the cinematic feeling is paramount. And I must confess it’s something I too strive for – even in my still images. And now I’m wondering. I’ve actually never been able to put my finger on it, only being able to recognise being pulled by it. Tokyo Story, The Mirror, Inception. Vastly different films, different eras, different cultures, different industries, different everything, all completely pull me in.

It feels like there’s more of a bright future in augmented and mediated realities than for virtual reality. The key is a mobile device  with a person used to supplement experience. VR in opposition presumes an exit from life, entering an alternative world and using the technology as an end instead of a means. I think that might be why there’ll always be that conceptual gap. That context has to be escaped, or VR remains a too specific – yet extremely immersive – tool.

Since what seems forever I’ve had trouble “thinking about” while experiencing, and I chalk it up to the fact that I’ve always thought of myself as naive, and therefore easily pulled in. Even now still I can – and constantly do – lose myself in cinema, art, books and what not, often afterwards recalling being taken along for the ride and forgoing  critical thinking. In fact, I regard being swept away as a measure of success.

Of course I know this holds no ground. But I can’t help myself. The creators of artifice tread a delicate balance between control and and chaos in order to generate that feeling, and consider all the elements in play that get us to that sweet spot. Storytelling. Structure. Narrative. Connections. Depth. Aesthetics. Timing. Relevance.

Imagining this gives me solace. And damn, I totally missed that Perseid meteor shower, even though I knew it was coming.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

12 August 2016

kusters_aug12_2016

Dear Ivan,

I stood at Flossenburg recording the silence at the grounds of the former concentration camp. After I was done, in the distance, I heard the sound of children playing. I didn’t make much of it, until I realised that many post-war houses here are built on the former camp grounds. Families. Life proceeding. The camp is of course monument, remembrance, as it should be. But those houses are a powerful statement: here is life, and it chooses to go on. The simple act of living being perhaps another kind of  ‘acte de défi’ in opposition to this camp’s purpose: to destroy life.

But indeed, on to lighter thoughts.

Per your advice I started reading “Tokyo Year Zero” by David Peace, and – the heavy topic aside – I’m very much taken by his  style. He captures the intricacies of Japanese culture that I’ve encountered many times on my travels to Japan. His novel also made me think of Watabe Yukichi’s wonderful book “A criminal investigation”, which also explores post-war Tokyo, but through images.

And of course, my mind now makes connections between the two. How can I not see Yukichi’s investigator as Peace’s detective Minami. Both about a criminal investigation in post war times. Both are crucial to better understanding a reality. Both driven by a relentless inner voice.

Understanding rooted in experience can’t be replicated. Oddly, in the times I’ve tried virtual reality, I’ve experienced a sense of claustrophobia, but I don’t know whether that’s because I’ve become part of the story, or whether it’s the simulation I’m fleeing. How it feels to find oneself running as a refugee. How it feels to be led into a concentration camp. How it feels to walk through the ruins of a firebombed city.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters.@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

6 August 2016

kusters_aug6_2016

Dear Ivan,

Yet again in a lone hotel room on my travels. Glad they exist of course, but sometimes one longs for a little change.

I started The Blue Skies Project to try to understand. I went to Auschwitz four years ago, to comprehend what my grandfather would have faced if he hadn’t escaped an SS night raid. There in Oświęcim that winter morning, between the camp barracks, the snow barely covering the earth below, a veil not hiding, a cloak not sheltering, I looked up at a cold blue sky.

Many must have looked up at that same sky, without hope. But what if the perished were still up there. What if I photographed that sky, what would the chance be that I’d have literally photographed every single victim? Impossible, of course. Yet I felt their presence.

Since then, I’ve been traveling. Experiencing the reality down here, the memorials, the houses, the streets, the fields, the forests. 1074 camps. The life that goes on below. And every time I look up, directly at every victim. Tiptoeing and reaching does not bring me closer, yet I catch myself doing it every time.

We have the benefit of hindsight, of course. That’s why László Nemes’ film “Son of Saul” is so gripping for me. He chooses a particular over-the-shoulder camera perspective, and an extremely narrow field of vision, exactly as it was for the deported.

I bought a chair yesterday. A chair to take with me, so that when I see a place with a horizon I can stop, sit, and stare into it. I think I’d like to sit and stare into one of your sunflower fields someday.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters. @ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_jul282016

Dear Ivan,

It’s indeed very hard to resist a fatalistic approach to what’s happening to mankind nowadays. I should stop lamenting this, and thank you for the way out.

My mind is now making connections between realities and our depictions. The borders of the Warsaw ghetto constantly being adjusted. The secret mapping so crucial to the ZOB, the Jewish Combat Organization, for their plans and hopes. Conversely, the public mapping crucial to the Nazis. Reality defines the map. The map defines reality.

Your image of a revolutionary sends me a powerful message of disobedience. The person in arms strikes me as a child, forced to act older than his age. A depiction of a singular heroic moment, filled with the purity of anger. Hope, the opposite of history. What we wish for, connected to what we cannot escape. Both shape us more than we can imagine, disobedient or not. The powerless angel yet again.

What would it take for me to pick up a weapon? What if it were astonishingly little. We all know civilisation is a very thin layer that conceals our aggressions., Perhaps we resent that. Imagine there were to be a call to arms. A revolution. You are required. I’d be ashamed if I were a coward; embarrassed if I were a fanatic.

Are we the mountain that gets carved out piece by piece, dying the death of a thousand cuts, pieces scattered over the globe, a diaspora? Or are we instead each a single marble block cut from the mountain, true form slowly appearing, chipped away, turning into sculptures that look backward towards history, and forward towards hope?

During a recent radio interview I was asked if I ever doubt my decisions, creative or otherwise. At least fifteen times a day I’m filled with unbearable uncertainty. Then a tiny victory, an invisible, necessary, personal act of disobedience against myself.

 /// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters. @ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_jul21_2016

Dear Ivan,

I’ve been driving non-stop the last two days. The heat seemed to have made its way from you to me, we’ve had the two hottest days in a long time here in Europe. Storms predicted, and also, none came.

As you know, the journey I’m currently undertaking isn’t the happiest one. Time and again, I look for traces in stone, bronze, film, paint or words for reassurance that all will be fine after this machinery of annihilation 70 years ago. What about the other side of the spectrum, the serenity, the beauty, the positive? Hope? Have we cast a self fulfilling prophecy?

Am I looking too hard? Am I burdening with meaning?

The powerless angel, and the connection of past, present and future through Paul Klee’s painting. Unable to learn throughout and from history, piling mistake upon mistake, violence upon violence, destruction upon destruction. Ruin upon ruin.

Cataclysmic events happen at an ever greater speed and size. Maybe there should be a Moore’s law for humanity as well, noting that historical events halve their frequency and double their magnitude with each generation.

But for me it will always be the little things. Amidst all this calamity, I still see our capacity for humanity as our greatest power. In spite of, one may say, and that may well be so.

And you’re right, seeing cannot make us complicit by default. I was too harsh. We can’t fully understand. Luckily, once in awhile the veil is lifted, the fig leaf pushed aside to offer us a glimpse.

Pia just had woken up and didn’t have the slightest interest in having her picture taken. Day breaking, the grogginess of her sleep slowly, visibly leaving her, my flash fires by accident. An angel.

What would she have dreamt about.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_jul152016

Dear Ivan,

The children miraculously survived of Stalingrad, and indeed one of the few images of that devastation I can recall is Evzerikhin’s, along with an image of a man saving what I remember was a contrabas from a devastated building.

Just a few days ago I passed through Nice on my way to where I am now. I just heard about the terrible act of terror there yesterday. The ultra-violence, it’s weighing on me. I find it difficult to write.

We keep trying to place complex circumstances into reductive contexts. Perhaps retrospection will help us to explain and properly contextualise this era, but meanwhile we endure, failing to understand why.

When the next history books are printed. When our time is added alongside all the others. We will be reduced to a simple chapter in history. Our chapter could be terrorism, alongside the human genome, internet, AI, climate change, migration, waste, and the depletion of fossil fuels. And Higgs Boson. I might miss quite a few here, I admit. I fail to properly delimit in time.

How would history name our era? And what if we’d fictionally try to write this future-past chapter, using our available templates to describe the past? And of course, with obligatory quantities of Carrara marble sprinkled here and there.

Clouds roll over the hilltops in the distance, south of Parma, where I’m heading. Lighting strikes and heavy raindrops fall. I hear no thunder. We both seem to be traveling a lot. My journeys pale in comparison to what I imagine the weight of the journey of your father’s family must have been.

 /// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters. @ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

 

Kusters_Jul112016

Dear Ivan,

Passing through the city of Carrara here in Italy I’m reminded of our recent conversation about stone and columns and memory. The quarries here in the mountain produced marble for so many sculptures and columns all over the world, linking Michelangelo’s Pietà to the steps of the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, to the Grande Arché de Défense in Paris and Marble Arch in London, to the Pantheon in Rome and Washington’s Peace Monument. This single mountain, cut piece by piece since Roman times, is the invisible centre point of all that mankind wanted to celebrate. Yet the mountain itself, dying a slow death of a thousand cuts, suffers silently, losing almost a million tonnes every year. I feel a possible project here. I might call it Lingchi.

Michelangelo was assigned to restart the marble production by  pope Leo X, who was Lorenzo de’Medici’s son. From 1515 to 1518 he worked here to design the Seravezza roads, along which 25-ton marble blocks were manually transported using an ancient system of sleds and pulleys, operated by 14-year old workers on the steepest of slopes. Up until the 1966. No wonder the contemporary anarchist movement rooted here so strongly.

Your image reminds me of the Srebrenica genocide, Milosević, and Ratko Mladić’s Scorpions, even though I don’t remember seeing tattoos. Predators again. I was young, and it was the first time that I felt the closeness of a war. A city besieged. Their streets were our streets. Their clothes were our clothes. No superficial distance, in culture or otherwise. This was home. The red resin of the Sarajevo Rose.

Later at night I hear that Portugal won the football cup. Somehow, even though I’d avidly followed every game until then, I fail to see its value that evening . I take note and move on.

My soul feels heavy and thick as marble. I hope all is well, my friend.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_Jul82016

Dear Ivan,

I shudder hearing about your experience. Eli Wiesel passed away only a few days ago in New York, a man who taught us that there are moments in which we cannot remain silent. In times like this, one wishes to control space and time, to give the gift of experience to the provocateurs, hoping they might understand and contextualise their actual provocation and reduction. A deliberate choice to choose a too-narrow context. I doubt many would still hold a same opinion after that experience.

Too many still turn away. Kitty Genovese. I imagine I was there, and I honestly do not know what I would have done. Of course reason tells me I would always intervene, but we also know that all the witnesses in 1964 felt the same, but did nothing. Kitty died with their eyes watching her.

Arles is magical by the way. I don’t know why it always feels that way.  I’m only here a few days every year, and my perspective is way too narrow to be representative. But somehow every time a weight falls off my shoulders. Immediately upon arrival. Bam. I’m sitting here in la Roquette and wonder if it’s the sunshine, the architecture, the people, the Rhône. Then I realise what I should have known all along: Mistral. The wind that shapes it all. Blessing and curse. Clearer of minds.

Maybe it’s the ritual of driving from home to here, exactly 1074 km, a number – as you already know – with a deep meaning for me. The wind picks up the curtains and i see the world outside. France won the soccer game, and la Roquette celebrated all night long as only la Roquette can do.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters. @ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_jul52016

Dear Ivan,

The victor writes history as he sees it. I concur. The culture, The identity of a nation shapes its way of looking at events and of writing its history. How else could differing descriptions of the same event exist? Is there even such a thing as a neutral representation?

The fallen depicted as heroes. A powerful scene, those men, women and children  dramatically displayed, turned into martyrs, presumably intended to invoke feeling rather than a display of fact. “J’accuse…!”, Émile Zola famously wrote in an open letter to his president in 1898 on the subject of anti-semitism. The Dreyfus affair divided France for nearly 12 years and became the archetypical example of miscarriage of justice, accusing the government of misuse of power.

The limits of any given language. Turmoil. Telling any story in any shape or form undeniably alters it. The space between reality and how we represent it is the context of the person telling the story. Our upbringing, our views of the world, our language, photography, painting, talking, writing skills. Our moods. Our health. Our worries and aspirations.

Our attempts to perceive reality are  inevitably faceted by a multitude of factors branching and interacting interplaying in an exact time and place, and conveyed by a person who  is constantly changing and limited in capacity to speak. It seems impossible.

We rely on categorisation, reduction and interpretation more than anything, and we trust our lives to others to reduce and interpret in a way that fits our own. Yet we mustn’t forget to constantly be aware of our inevitably limited perspectives.

Our world view is local indeed. That’s not bad. Just once every now and again, we need to stop our urge to be victors.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

 

kusters_jul2

Dear Ivan,

Opposite the Maginot line in Germany lay the second Siegfried line, or Westwall. The network of concentration camps of Hinzert where I was last week stood right in the middle of it, the camp and sub camp system brought to life in 1938 specifically to use forced labour to construct and fortify large parts of this line, with prisoners considered antisocial and in need of re-education.

The systemacy and institutionalisation of it all, equating a human being to a usable, disposable entity measured merely by the work in hours, added to the cause. Exploit. Discard when exhausted. Repeat.

Nearby in the city of Trier there was also a Hinzert sub camp. Karl Marx was born there more than a century earlier. With his notion of class struggle, Marx predicted the economic exploitation that the Nazis would force upon the country, which was in turn an element of political oppression, mass murder and genocide.

I am testing a new old camera, a gift from a friend. Looking into the ground glass, I see my face inverted, flipped, and shadowed by my hat, and I become a stranger to myself.

Your image comes to mind as I drive through a tunnel, soldiers compressed as the narratives they represent, a reality larger than every individual yet in part shaped by every individual.

And always that exploitation appearing in whatever humans do. Time distorting as lights flash by, I’m fighting my fatigue as I  drive. But I’m heading home, and there’s tremendous power and consolation in that thought.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

Kusters_jun28

Dear Ivan,

Traveling, driving, chasing the sun here in Germany I can’t help but think about your Nelson image and the events that are unfolding as we speak. Having been trained as a political scientist in a past life, I’m deeply upset.

Yes, the cynics among us might tell you that self-serving manipulation is simply part of the human condition. But cynicism has never solved anything; it is an intellectually destructive position, and the weakest of all moral stances and attitudes.

I’m driving through a European landscape where the same nationalist fervor grew in the beginning of last century. Power-hungry political bullshitters, growing xenophobia everywhere, creeping into our societies, allowing unspeakable things to happen. Have we forgotten?

I literally fail to find my sunshine today. Driving towards the edge of the clouds I see the blue sky in the distance, yet I fail to reach it. The winds are not in my favour. As I visit the remains of the former Nazi concentration camp in Hinzert, I see today’s rain falling on history. Suddenly the work that I’m creating on this journey throughout Europe seems even more urgent to show.

I really hope we didn’t forget. As yours, my heart too, relentlessly pounding inside my chest as I drive home in silence. The distant hilltop trees my witness, as they must have been then.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

kusters_june20

Dear Ivan,

Tomorrow summer starts. Looking out into this gloomy weather here in Belgium, I long for sunny days. I had a breakthrough last night for a new story I’m aching to start. As I was yet again looking at my contact sheets of the preliminary work I had done on location in Kyushu now nine months ago, I somehow added what I now see as new key images.

Why had I never noticed them before? They seem so obvious. And after printing the images today, the whole story came together for me. I now know what to do to make the project. It’s an immense relief, knowing which mountain I need to climb for this. It won’t make the climb itself any easier of course, but the journey’s where all the fun lies, right?

And I’m not going to wonder what made me see differently. Maybe it’s the books I’ve been reading, the films I’ve watched, or the conversations I’ve been having. It’s better I don’t know, it’s impossible to replicate or turn into a trick anyway. I’m just glad that it happens every so often.

Speaking of massacres, as I look at your image my stepson is playing Battlefield 4 and having a massacre of his own. A message pops up: “last man in squad”. I reminisce. A family, shelter, a place to call home. I struggle to find anything more profound right now.

A man rings the doorbell with an empty bottle asking if I can fill it with water for him. He’s working construction next door with nobody home. He apologises for disturbing me and I say please…don’t mention it and come to think of it that makes me feel sad. I wish no one would ever have to apologise for asking for a glass of water.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

Kusters_jun15

Dear Ivan,

It’s indeed striking; I hadn’t noticed it at all. Why would you continue to send those images of stone. Is it to open my eyes to something you’ve seen, the uncontrollable urge we have to eternalise ourselves, to build things that confirm our actions, to validate us? I’ve been reading about our deeply ingrained inner urge to conform to the people around us, and by doing so, maintaining  our status within the groups so as not to be cast out. Something that in the Stone Age was crucial for survival, is no longer. But that basic urge still governs part of us.

Look at any school class picture and you’ll see: most students will have the same hairstyle and clothes. The chance of people having done that without outside influence is infinitesimal. Though we pride ourselves on our individuality, maybe it would be better to accept the influence of peers. We want to be eternal. We want our empire. We want our approval. It just takes a different shape for each of us.

We know it’s not healthy to be governed by this influence. Yet at the same time it is impossible to completely discard it; it unequivocally is part of us. Maybe the key lies in Plato’s dialogues with Socrates: learn to know thyself.

Sometimes I catch glimpses of myself. Those moments that I’m up in a tree, looking out.

Down below are the stone busts and statues of the ancient Greek philosophers in dialogue, thinking, disputing. Again stone. Again our attempt at eternity.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

 

 

anton_jun11

Dear Ivan,

In Rome where I am now, a city with a huge past, carved and set in stone by uncountable columns, history has been redefined many times. An act of blurring in and of itself, like the tarp covering the car, never revealing its entirety, only showing every viewer what they want to see, relying on imagination and memory of what is obscured. And I’m sure that images in our collective consciousness cloud our own memories as well, often passing for one of them to the point we believe them to be our own.

I must confess that I’ve never driven a convertible. I can imagine the feeling being comparable to riding a motorcycle on winding roads, sun setting, wind blowing, no destination. After three accidents it was time to move on.

Walking down the steps of my friend’s room here in via Casalini I look outside and see a baby doll and tricycle left behind on the neighbour’s rooftop. A mix of thoughts, memories and associations come to me, and now I long for my innocence and earliest childhood, playing around our house in Riyadh.

I’m on a tram heading to Termini and a little girl points to an imaginary place out the window. Again, constant movement, constant remembering, forgetting, appropriating, redefining, moving towards, and moving away.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters. @ivansigal and @antonkusters on Instagram ///

anton_Jun4

Dear Ivan,

I agree, and I think you make an important observation with “the act of projecting upon”. Often we forget, as image makers, that there is a necessary second moment of interpretation, by definition out of our control. The first interpretation is obviously that of the photographer making the image, the second that of viewers interpreting that same image, an image that they can never fully contextualise.

I find myself – as a viewer – always wondering about that first interpretation, what drove the decision to make this image in this exact way. Of course I’ll never be able to know this, so I project, not only my reality upon the photograph, but also my reality upon what might have been the first interpretation of the artist.

The fig leaf of course forever being in the way, making it impossible for me to see, leaving me with my projection. And at the same time most probably protecting me from disillusion were I able to understand.

Why disillusion? Because not understanding is the most powerful drive. It pushes us to jump, to experience, to learn. The last Homo Universalis died a long time ago, but I can’t help wondering what he felt at that precise moment when he had pushed all fig leaves aside and said to himself “and now I know everything there is to be known”. I doubt it was joy.

As a human being I’m a social creature. I absolutely need to be in this constant state of projection, relating to other humans around me any chance I get, dependent on the other even in my act of being alone, instinctively pushed forward by my will to understand; my lensless eye, my umbrella.

Just like a dog, I am never lost, only walking to be found. You?

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

 

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Dear Ivan, ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ How I get up there in my tree top is indeed a mystery, most of all to myself… but I’m fine with that, as long as it keeps on happening. Up in that tree looking out, I find little more than a vague hint in the distance, and there need not be more. These few seconds of squinting, looking forward and looking back at the same time, maybe seeing, mostly not seeing. My reward is not the seeing, but simply being allowed to be there in the first place. How many others never ever get to climb a single tree. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Two years ago I was a dog. Then I was in a tree top and saw that the images I’d been making for years weren’t connected to what I had set out to talk about. It was agonising. Amputation. I had literally lost my words. I had to start again, navigate my own images all over again. I learned. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So I touch wood every time. And get the courage to jump. “Unsure but acting anyway” is a very apt description. There’s always this little thing that suddenly decides to push me. There’s never anything holding me back, yet I do take my reality into account in earnest. Is it instinct? Even though I make mistakes all the time, this little thing hasn’t failed me yet. I hope it never will. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It’s like your detail of the wall: I know it’s a detail of a wall, and I am content knowing that I might never be able to see or grasp the entire wall. I can climb that wall, and I might be off by a little, or by a lot. And along the way I’ll only be able to look closely at the details in front of me and climb. The only certainty is that I know there’s a wall, and that I’m moving. I might not ever reach anything. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Do you have this little thing inside that makes you jump, this little thing not caring how your life looks like or if you’re unsure? Are you unsure at all? Maybe you’re sure. I’ve met many who are, maybe most. Or maybe you’ve mastered tree climbing, and were able to build a little home up there. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You know, with a cosy fireplace and a tea kettle. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ /// < #image_by_image> is an ongoing conversation between photographers and . ///

Dear Ivan,

How I get into that tree is indeed a mystery, most of all to myself… but I’m fine with that, as long as it keeps on happening. Looking out, I find little more than a vague hint in the distance, and there need not be more. These few seconds of squinting, looking forward and back at the same time, maybe seeing, mostly not seeing. Simply being allowed to be there.

Two years ago I was a dog. Then I climbed a tree and saw that the images I’d been making for years weren’t connected to what I had set out to talk about. It was agonising. I had lost my words. I had to learn to navigate my own images all over again.

So I touch wood and get the courage to jump. “Unsure but acting anyway” is a very apt description. I am somehow able to move past the barriers that I create for myself. Yet I can only see that later. Is it instinct? Even though I make mistakes all the time, this feeling hasn’t failed me yet.

It’s like your detail of the wall: I know it’s a detail and I am content knowing that I might never be able to see the entire wall. I can climb it, and along the way I’ll only be able to look closely at the details in front of me. The only certainty is that I know there’s a wall, and that I’m moving. I might not ever reach anything.

Do you have this little thing inside that makes you jump, this little thing not caring how your life looks or if you’re unsure? Are you unsure at all? Maybe you’re sure. I’ve met many who are, maybe most. Or maybe you’ve mastered tree climbing, and were able to build a little home up there.

You know, with a cosy fireplace and a tea kettle.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters.@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Dear Ivan, ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Navigating without seeing is like life: we don't have the capacity to see where we’re actually going, even though we can understand a broader picture sometimes. In E, I see a great metaphor of this in a literal physical way. Like your image of people walking with umbrellas, we’re constantly navigating with seemingly little context, aways sunk away in thoughts yet never a clue, scarcely learning to recognise shapes along the way. But our strength is that we’re not alone. E seems to understand that more than most. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In a comparable way, for the last years I’ve been making images without a lens, asking a camera to record images for me with an eye that I do not have myself. Nothing in between reality and medium, everything essentially reduced to two dimensional recorded shapes that I retroactively try to understand while relating to the moment I experienced. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And then there are those moments when I suddenly find myself in a tree along my path, a tree that I’ve apparently climbed up to seek out my horizon. To understand things more. Hoping to be closer. But that’s the thing about an horizon: it’s hope. It’s meant to be far. I’ll never arrive at my horizon. And the fact that my hope defines my path in ways I cannot understand, is kind of OK. When in doubt, all I need to do is turn around and look back where I was yesterday. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Out of nowhere, a dog gently approaches me, acknowledging and accepting my presence. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ /// is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters. @ivansigal @antonkusters ///

Dear Ivan, ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Navigating without seeing is like life: we don’t have the capacity to see where we’re actually going, even though we can  sometimes understand a broader picture. In E, I see a metaphor: as with your image of people walking with umbrellas, we’re constantly navigating with seemingly little context, sunk away in thoughts with never a clue, scarcely learning to recognise shapes along the way. Our strength is that we’re not alone. E seems to understand that more than most.

In a comparable way, for the last years I’ve been making images without a lens, asking a camera to record images for me with an eye that I do not have myself. Nothing between reality and medium, everything reduced to two-dimensional recorded shapes that I retroactively try to understand while relating to the moment I experienced.

And then there are those moments when I suddenly find myself in a tree along my path, which I’ve apparently climbed to seek out a horizon. Hoping to be closer. But that’s the thing about a horizon: it’s hope. It’s meant to be far. Of course I’ll never arrive. The fact that my hope defines a path in ways I cannot understand is kind of OK. When in doubt, I just need to turn around and look back where I was yesterday.

Out of nowhere, a dog gently approaches me, acknowledging and accepting my presence.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters.@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///

Dear Ivan I'm obsessed with context. Saw your image yesterday and read your words, and all I could think of was “what if this woman were the one who could actually see?”. I know, having all of humanity stacked up against you makes it pretty much impossible to be considered the norm for seeing correctly. And what does that even mean, ‘the norm’, besides being a product of specific set of circumstances. All I remember being young was trying to understand why, trying to turn things around, trying not to judge, and slowly realising that everyone can only look through their own eye anyway. I guess realising the inevitability of one’s own context is the most I could hope for. It makes me wish I could see like the woman in the image, constantly dependent on others to interpret, something we all seem to shun, her act of seeing and seeking context being so much more. So much richer than mine, petty, arrogant, rusted and willing only to believe my own. /// is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters. @ivansigal @antonkusters ///

Dear Ivan,

I’m obsessed with context. Saw your image yesterday, and all I could think was “what if this woman were the one who could actually see?” I know, having all of humanity stacked up against you makes it nearly impossible to be considered the norm for correct seeing. And what is  “the norm,” besides a product of specific set of circumstances. All I remember when young was trying to understand why, trying to turn things around, trying not to judge, and slowly realising that everyone can only look through their own eyes. Perhaps realising the inevitability of one’s own context is the most I could hope for. It makes me wish I could see like the woman in your photo, constantly dependent on others to interpret, something we all seem to shun. Her act of seeing and seeking context being so much richer than mine, petty, arrogant, rusted and willing only to believe my own.

/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters. @ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram ///