Using a Ricoh GRD III and a Nikon DSLR to photograph streets, people, architecture and anything else that catches my eye.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Monthly Favoutrite - Geisha of Gion

Every so often, we photographers capture an image which is quite special. These images may not necessarily be the perfect shot, or may not win any competitions. Quite often these images are really only important to the person who took it; to remind them of a time and a place, or for even more obscure personal reasons. I have a few of these personal favourites, which I will post every now and then.

So here is today's personal fave - Geisha of Gion. 

Real traditional geisha are a slowly disappearing symbol of Japanese history and culture. An exotic anachronism, a butterfly trapped inside a machine; geishas can be sometimes seen in certain parts of Kyoto, going about their business.  They are quite secretive in their movements, and are rarely captured on camera. (Interestingly, many normal Japanese girls will spend a day dressed as a geisha, as an experience day; and these are often mistaken for real geisha).

There is a small area of Kyoto called Gion, which is the cultural center of all things geisha.  The narrow paved streets which criss-cross between small traditionally built restaurants, bars and inns all come to life in the evenings with businessmen and other wealthy types wandering from bar to bar, together with a splattering of entranced tourists. The rustic brown buildings are all softly lit with yellow and red lantern glows. Laughter and secrets can be heard all around as you wander along these simple old streets...   then out of nowhere...   around a corner comes an angel of colour and elegance; her quick foot steps are silent as she passes everyone with her painted face held high...  in an instant she is gone, leaving whispers and gossip in her enigmatic wake.

So, it would be rude to stand around with a DSLR trying to collect butterflies with a flash gun, wouldn't it?  But it's not so bad to stand still, with camera held at chest level, flash switched off,

...and if I time it just right...


Michael Gatton said...

Interesting shot, I had to do a little reading on geisha, still not entirely sure how it works...Anachronistic indeed, though, and the contrast with the poster on the wall drives it home.

Gerry's Blog said...

I like this shot, it looks like a set up in a museum .... she doesn't look real to me... I like that. I also love what you wrote ... I love your insight into photography

Bill Wellham said...

Thanks guys...

Mike, the whole geisha thing is a bit strange. To strip it down to basics, it could be seen as a form of prostitution, which it certainly was before the 1950's. Although there was always a large element of high culture and years of hard training to perform many arts. Nowadays, the few geisha that are left are predominately interested in the cultural side. In Japan, if a man needs anything more 'basic', he can easily find these things through 'escort' agencies etc, just the same as the rest of the world.
Interestingly, many girls choose to become geisha purely for the artistic way of life... and many fail from the hard work and training involved. It is all very strange and secretive though.

Gerry... cheers... I thought you had disappeared for a while. This does have a slightly unreal feel about it. I was very lucky. I think sometimes luck is a great force in photography.