rene & margaret

Here it is. Our first book together; all images of Margaret Lansink and all poems by Rene van Hulst. Printed in two blacks and silver in a design by Akikio Wakabayashi. A book on an inspiring story which still has so much relevance today. A book in which we do not want to lecture but give every individual a small nudge to help build a society where empathy for the other is omnipresent.

As Katharine Oktober Matthews wrote in the preface of the book: “Every moment contains multiple possibilities, though sometimes we cannot feel it. Small decisions, small gestures, and small actions ripple outwards from our bodies into the lives of others, collapsing the many possibilities into the determination of reality. With a casual and careless stroke, we can crush the spirit of another in passing without any awareness of having done so. Equally, we can unknowingly radiate to others the inspiration and joy to live another day. Our deepest acts of both cruelty and kindness may in fact be invisible to us.”.

Being aware of this notion makes the start of a different interaction between humans. Even if we didn’t know each other beforehand. Just like the Dutch counsel Jan Zwartendijk and the Japanese counsel Chiune Sugihara who issued the visa that saved the lives of thousands of Jews. People both consuls didn’t know beforehand.

Or as Oktober Matthews says it so beautifully:
In her black and white images, Lansink traces the feeling of everyday saviours like Zwartendijk through an intuitive view of Kaunas and Japan. She mixes scenes from ordinary daily life with shots of blurred confusion, and layered scenes with reflections that hold us apart from what we see. In his series of short poems, van Hulst muses on the potential of our human existence: we are all afraid and alone, together. In combination, the photographs and words dwell in the possibility of any given moment for a person to choose fear, apathy, and anger, or to choose compassion and kindness. Gently, they urge for kindness.

Want to have your own copy? Please order here
Or via Kaunas Photogallery in this link.
More on our journey can be found here.





Back in Kaunas. After a journey of three years we are again back in this beautiful city and ready for the launch of our book ‘The Kindness of One’ tomorrow evening in the Kaunas Photogallery. And it is with considerable pride that we are part of the program of the ‘Citytelling Festival’ of the Kaunas 2022 Cultural Capital, being invited by its curator, Daiva Citvariene, to present the story of our inspiration.

Especially for this event on the 21st of October, we prepared a screening of our book with the help of Robi Reisinger of the Gallery Club. With his expertise, we developed a special soundtrack to guide viewers along the journey of our book through the images selected. An eclectic 8 min deep dive into the emotional journey of (fortunately) so many Jews who where given the opportunity to escape the horror of Nazi Germany.

And as we write this, humanity is still struggling with millions of refugees due to wars and sometimes it seems that we simply fail to learn the important lessons of our history. Or in positive words, as written in the preface of our book by Katherine Oktober Matthews; every day and every moment, we can choose for angry or for kindness…

So a big thank you to all who travelled with us on this remarkable journey:
design: akiko wakabayashi
lithography: marc gijzen
production: drukkerij tielen, boxtel
publisher: kaunas photography gallery in cooperation with wewest

Margaret and Rene would like to thank the team of the Kaunas Photography Gallery for their energy and perseverance in making this book happen, especially Gintaras Cesonis for his belief in  the importance of our story. Furthermore the people of Shiro Oni Studio in Onishi Japan for our wonderful residence, especially Yoji Matsumura for his teaching  of the Japanese language and  the principles of Wabi Sabi.

We admit, it has been quite a while that we delivered you some news on our project. Now it is high time to update you on everything that has happened after our return from the AIR at Shiro Oni Studio in Japan, late September 2017.

We came back with tons of images and poetry lines to sort through, to select and to kill quite a few darlings. What left was still an impressive amount which we put in the capable hands of Akiko Wakabayashi, a Japanese designer living and working in Amsterdam. Trained at the legendary studio of Irma Boom, the acclaimed photo-book designer.

Together we went through the creative rite of finding the right voice for our story and developing the right marriage between the Kaunas and the Onishi imagery/poetry. After three not yet completely OK tries, Akiko created a version that was not only impressive but especially fitted our story. With this design, we dared to venture out in the world to find publishers and co-sponsors.

When in Arles this summer, we met up again with Gintaras Cesonis, the director of the Kaunas Gallery. And it is with great pride and joy that we can now announce that they will become publisher and co-financiers of the book. Mid November, we will meet up again to talk through the final details and we foresee a launch somewhere around or just after the summer of 2019….. Actually, we have received the first copies today!

If you want to be in on the first (signed) copies of the book…follow this link!

Today marks our last day at the Shiro Oni Residence. Later this afternoon, we will do our artist talk one more time and thereafter dismantle our exhibition. Time for some reflection on 6 weeks Japan.

Before we went everybody told us that we would experience a culture shock; Japan is so different. And it is. The culture of this society brings all of its friendliness to the forefront, the human respect and awareness is something we know we will dearly miss back in Europe. Although we couldn’t read any of the signs, we experience the heartfelt connections with so many of the local people.

This last day of the Kanna Art Festival however shows that humans also are a lot alike, everywhere you go. They all want to have a good time, they all want to be inspired, work and discover together and simply be around each other. It is probably the reason why one of the residents suggested to dance within the installation of one of the Japanese artists which was amazing as you can see in the image of this post.

last day

But probably the best illustration is to be seen in one of the food stands in the courtyard of the old brewery; Japanese preparing paella! Which, according to our Spanish colleague resident, was a true paella!

So we know we will come back to this country and its lovely people! To present the outcome of our project, to photograph and write even more and above all experience the friendliness of the human interactions. For us it is no wonder that 77 years ago, when the Jews from Kaunas were greeted with a simple bow, a great number of them decided to stay in this wonderful society.

Yesterday we had a discussion with our Japanese friends about the differences between Asia and Europe. We said that we expected a big cultural clash as all Europeans who have visited Japan said we would experience. And yes, the world is different yet so alike.

Different in the fact that you are simply not able to read or understand the Japanese language. The signs make it impossible to understand what is being written. In a way that is nice. You are the easy outside who’s mind is not bothered with futile information or information you try to make any sense of.

The same as we are all human. We all have our dreams, our wishes, our problems or anxieties. There is simply no difference between a Japanese person or a European or for that matter any Western person. If you only go beyond the first impressions, the outer surface and give each other the trust that opening up is OK.

Something which is not part of the Japanese culture. There you do not talk with friends on your problems or dreams. Anything to keep up the good ‘face’.

A little light in dark times

The lucky ones who were handed a visa for Curacao went on a major trip through the width of Russia, to end up on a ship in Vladivostok. After a few days of sailing, they entered the small Japanese port of Tsuruga. There they were welcomed by representatives of the Jewish community of Kobe, which escorted them to Kobe to give them a new home away from home. Thanks to the little lights of two men, they escaped the dark times of WW-II to enter in the light of the Japanese culture. This poem tries to put into words what these people must have felt upon arrival. It is one of the texts used in our exhibition in the Kanna Art Festival.

fleeing from terrorlight
fear in their veins
travelling into the unknown
escaping the horrors
by some simple empathy
insecure future
anxiety upon arrival
to find respect
in a simple bow
acknowledging them
as individuals
who’s lives do matter