For one of his first major reportages, Alberto Venzago (b. 1950) delved into the
world of the Japanese Yakuza, a mafia-like organization with rival gangs operating
worldwide. After gaining their trust, the photographer documented the
“family life” of a syndicate over a period of five years. “My goal was to move like
a shadow and thus make myself invisible,” says Venzago. Organized according
to a strict hierarchy, the Yakuza traffic in humans, amphetamines, weapons,
and real estate, as well as running protection rackets. Traditional rituals serve
to promote cohesion in the community, whose members signal their devotion
to the gang leader by allowing their finger joints to be severed in case of misconduct.
In everyday life, the Yakuza wear classic black suits, which conceal
full-body tattoos. In this masterfully composed image of three body guards, the
tension is palpable—as if in a movie scene.
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