The Maiko Katsuya at Baikasai in Kyoto

The maiko Katsuya at Baikasai at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto in 2005
The maiko Katsuya at Baikasai at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto in 2005

I'm posting this photo of the maiko Katsuya of Kamishichiken at Baikasai at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine at the request of one of my readers. This photo was taken in 2005, the first time I went to Baikasai.

Although I included four images from Baikasai that year in my book One Hundred Views of Maiko and Geiko, this image did not make the cut. I thought that Katsuya was the most attractive of the maiko I photographed that day, but I did not include the photo in the book because of the direction Katsuya is looking.

When I made this photo, I was sitting at a table and Katsuya had just served me tea. She knew the person sitting next to me, so she was engaged in a conversation with that person at the time. She was looking at him when I pressed the shutter.

I don't really like photos like this because they make me feel like a voyeur more than a photographer. I feel like I am intruding on a moment that does not include me, and that just strikes me as wrong somehow.

If you look at most of my photographs of maiko and geiko, especially from this time period, you will see them looking directly at the camera (sharing a moment with me), or just going about their business, completely unaware of me (more of a documentary approach).

I did not know any of the maiko and geiko from Kamishichiken when I first went to Baikasai, so there are no photos of them making eye contact with my camera from that year. Instead, I focused on them as they prepared and served the tea, when they were totally absorbed in what they were doing and completely unaware of my presence.

There is still an element of voyeurism involved, obviously, but I still feel I was making my own moments, not stealing somebody else's, with the photos I included in the book. I can't say the same for this photo, but I do like the catchlights in Katsuya's eyes and the way her bright yellow kanzashi contrast with her green kimono. I hope you do, too.