Kimina and Keeping It Simple

Kimina in November
Kimina in November

When I photograph geisha and maiko in Kyoto, I usually have three hours. While three hours is an eternity compared to the thirty seconds I was lucky to get when I first started photographing these women, it really isn't much time. When you factor in breaks, small talk, and arriving and leaving, it's more like two and a half hours of photography or less.

To have a successful session with several different looks, I have to keep a balance between more complex lighting that takes time to set-up and tweak and simpler lighting that takes much less time but that is still interesting. This November portrait of Kimina, a geisha from Miyagawa-cho, is the essence of simplicity. Kimina is standing in the entrance (genkan in Japanese) of a teahouse, just out of the direct sunlight. She is holding a small white reflector, which if you look close you will see accounts for the catchlights in her eyes. I had Kimina look into the lens, look down, and look off into the distance to both camera left and camera right, giving me several variations to choose from. This was accomplished in about five minutes, giving me plenty of time for more complicated lighting schemes. It also adds to the energy and momentum of the session when I know I am getting a lot done in a brief amount of time.