One of my favourite motifs is that of maiko or geiko walking away. Why? For one thing, I don’t like to photograph in people’s faces as they come towards me. I am happier to let my subjects pass and then photograph as they disappear down the street. The 13 drawings on this page are all examples of young ladies walking away.
I love to draw urban streets. To put two figures in the composition is like inviting you, the viewer, to accompany them as they travel on foot. Often there is a sense of intimacy, especially if the figures seem to be engaged in conversation. In such a drawing I have just as much fun working on the urban-scape as the figures it contains.
Sometimes it is just a single figure. The light might catch the gold fibre in her obi. How I love that luxuriant piece of cloth though its complicated patterns are a challenge and are apt to drive me crazy. In the case of kimono ensembles, a maiko or geiko is just as splendid (if not more so) seen from behind as in front.
In “A Stroll Before Dusk” below, you may be able to see that the two figures are tourists dressing up as maiko. How can you tell? Because they don’t have the natural grace and poise of real maiko. They walk a little awkwardly and the kimono are rather haphazard too. Some people who follow maiko and geiko on-line take offence at women dressing up and parading in the streets of Kyoto – “Imposters!” – but I don’t mind ‘cos-play’ maiko at all. Why shouldn’t they have fun?
You can compare the figures in “Diamonds” with those from “A Stroll Before Dusk”. The three genuine maiko almost float as they walk.
I caught a moment in “Surprise!” where two maiko have rounded a corner to be faced with a wall of photographers. There is no turning back. They are like rabbits in headlights.
Next week I will be back in Kyoto. You will find me on a street corner in Gion, Pontocho, Kamishichiken or Miyagawacho humming to myself, “Just walk away, Renée/You won’t see me follow you back home”. I always liked that song.