A Walk with Katsutomo-san

It just so happened that the day I arrived in Kyoto was also the day Katsutomo-san made her debut as Geiko.  What fantastic fortune for me!  I was ready.  The following photos document my walk with Katsutomo-san.   (Please click on the photos to enlarge them so that they can be fully appreciated.)

I waited for one and a half hours across from the door of the okiya so that I would get this first view. I was surrounded by many other photographers - some of whom pushed in front of me!

I waited for one and a half hours across from the door of the okiya so that I would get this first view. I was surrounded by many other photographers – some of whom pushed in front of me!  This was the moment people saw Katsutomo-san for the first time as Geiko.

Katsutomo-san looked serious most of the time...I might even say, tense.

Katsutomo-san looked serious most of the time…I might even say, tense.  I love the textures captured here.

While I was waiting I decided to try an unusual viewpoint for this photo.

While I was waiting I decided to try an unusual viewpoint for this photo.

Here is a good look at the pattern on her obi.

Here you can see the pattern on Katsutomo-san’s obi.

I like the movements of Katsutomo-san and her Otokoshi here - almost like a dance.

I like the movements of Katsutomo-san and her Otokoshi here – almost like a dance.  He looks like he is pulling her along with invisible thread.

Here is an idea of the difficulty of getting photos. One really had to work HARD to get views: walk very fast and always try to be in the right place at the right time. Impossible of course.

Here is an idea of the difficulty of getting photos. One really had to work HARD to get into position: walk very fast and always try to be in the right place at the right time. Impossible of course.

Canine observes human.

Canine observed human.  This is Chiro at Nishimura Okiya.  I have been seeing him from time to time since he was a puppy.

I was trying to photograph this exit over a sea of heads , arms and cameras.

I was trying to photograph this exit over a sea of heads , arms and cameras.

Not all of Gion is made up of historic wooden tea houses. The convenience store is ubiquitous in Japan.

Not all of Gion is made up of historic wooden tea houses. The convenience store is ubiquitous in Japan; Gion is no exception.

Now we are back to romantic Gion; Shinbashi.

We arrived at one of the most beautiful areas of Gion – Shinbashi.

Double portrait in Shinbashi.

Double portrait in idyllic Shinbashi.  I think Katsutomo-san realised she was over half way now.  Not much longer to go.

Katsutomo-san paused for a couple of minutes to give photographers time for portraits. But this was a classic case of me NOT being there. I was waiting further up the road. I had to rush back when I realised that this opportunity was being missed by me.

Katsutomo-san paused for a couple of minutes to give photographers time for portraits. But this was a classic case of me NOT being there. I was waiting further up the road. I had to rush back when I realised that this opportunity was being missed by me.

Perhaps this photo gives a hint of the intense heat and humidity. Just briefly Katsutomo-san shows us how she was feeling.

Perhaps this photo gives a hint of the intense heat and humidity. Just briefly Katsutomo-san shows us how she was feeling.

This is the gorgeous bridge which is a photographer's delight. Trouble is, ALL the photographers were delighting there already - which means they became part of my photo.

This is the gorgeous bridge which is a photographer’s delight. Trouble is, ALL the photographers were delighting there already – which means they became part of my photo.  (And I’m probably part of theirs!)

Juxtaposition between tradition and modern.

Juxtaposition between tradition and modern.

I was waiting outside Katsutomo-san’s okiya from 10 a.m.  She came out around 11.40 and we didn’t finish until nearly 15:00.  It was hot and exhausting but also exciting.

Later that night as I stalked the streets I saw Katsutomo-san flit by.

Later that night as I walked around I saw Katsutomo-san flit by.

Tourists catch a glimpse...

Tourists caught a glimpse…

...and she disappears into the Gion night...

…and she disappeared into the Gion night…

In my next post I will present my photos from day 2 of the Erikae walk.  Katsutomo-san was so much more relaxed and there were way less photographers than day 1 (as always).

ps.  Katsutomo-san has already appeared in two of my drawings, both done within the last year.

In "Diamonds" Katsutomo-san was the Maiko in the middle.

In the drawing “Diamonds” Katsutomo-san was the Maiko in the middle.

Here she is in my drawing "The Art of Elegance"

Here she is in my drawing “The Art of Elegance”

For photos of the second day, please click on Go Around Again

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About juliepodstolski

I am a realist artist who works in coloured pencils.
Image | This entry was posted in art, coloured pencils, geisha, Japan, photo portraits of cities, photography, travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to A Walk with Katsutomo-san

  1. Fantastic photographs. Your hard work and tenacity paid off, the perspectives from many of these are wonderful. Lovely tribute to the beauty and elegance of your subject.

    • Thank you so much. This is a good example of you reap what you sow. I couldn’t have gotten these without putting in everything I had. Only the morning before, I was still in Australia.

  2. My you certainly have to work hard for your art Julie, but you photos are certainly worth while. Just some beautiful shots, can’t wait to see the drawings from this lot. Karen

    • I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining when I say it is hard work. At the same time it is the best fun!

      • You certainly didn’t sound like you were complaining, but that is one hell of a pack of photographers you have to compete with and they look like they might take you down if you didn’t stand your ground.

      • Those guys ARE – let’s say – as single-minded as I am in trying to get good photos. And they are a LOT more experienced at getting them too. I try to observe what they do and follow suit. I find that if I am respectful of everybody around me, my presence appears to be tolerated.

  3. Diane Plum says:

    Fabulous photos, Julie. You are an inspiration to getting the best for your art. Such dedication to getting the subject just right.

    • Diane, it is a tremendous buzz catching an Erikae (debut as Geiko) or Misedashi (debut as Maiko). It is really exciting and one never knows what treasures one’s camera will reveal later on.

  4. stéfan2009 says:

    Your photos are really wonderful !

  5. sherrytelle says:

    As always it is such a treat to wake up in the morning and have your blog to read. I am always the first one up and the house is quiet, coffee is fresh and the cats snuggle in with me for the read! Seeing the Geisha culture through your eyes is fascinating and I savour every picture and caption! Thanks for starting my day off with your vision, Cousin!

    • That is a very nice picture you paint, Cousin. I can just see you and the cats on a fresh new day, sitting together with coffee and computer. You sound like you have better habits than I do. At the moment I have trouble GETTING myself out of bed!

  6. thank you for sharing the photos, really great to see them and the lighting that day looked good for photos

    • I guess it was good lighting, Jennifer. It was extremely bright and glaring – or so it seemed. I’m always nervous about having the wrong exposure set. The shadows in Gion seem deep and the sunny spots bright – so it is hard to accommodate both. And time is so tight that you can’t keep checking to see results produced until it is all finished.

  7. Ann Kullberg says:

    Ridiculously gorgeous, amazing photos, Juie. WOW. I’m beyond envy. I want to draw every one of those!!!!

  8. Great photos, I particularly love the one of her wiping her brow…. the background is delicious.

  9. The colour contrasts in these photos are so strong, I think this is one of the things that makes the subject matter so appealing. There are many great images here – I like the little glimpses of the real girl beneath the careful clothing and hair, looking at the dog, brushing her face in the heat, emerging from behind the curtain with the wonderful graphic imagery. They are very good photos in their own right, yet clearly a long way from the composition that will appear in your drawings. Your brain will be ready to work again in its own time!

    • Hi Anna, thanks for your thoughts. Your comments have given me the impetus to get on with the second post – the one I promised of the second day. It reveals more, I think, of the real girl. There were times in both shoots when the Otokoshi was fixing up a bit here and there on the kimono and at those times Katsutomo-san actually looked like a very little girl. Perhaps she returned mentally to when her mother was fixing her outfit as a child. It looked like that.
      I agree that these photos are really good in themselves. That has been a factor in my not wanting to draw from them. Why try to make a drawing of something which is already complete? I’m not sure what the future will hold. I’m sure to draw something from them. But for the moment, my first drawing after returning, is a street-scape (no people) from my June 2014 visit when I couldn’t sleep so was out at 3.30 a.m.
      When I got home last week I had to question my motives. All these lovely photos, was I just trying to copy them with pencils? I had an art existential crisis! So I’m leaving them while my subconscious sorts out the issue.

      • Goodness, you have been doing some deep thinking! The observation I would make is that in your drawings you aren’t copying the photos, especially when you just take an element of one. This takes it to a different place altogether. But it never hurts to step back from your work and question your motives and goals. It has to lead to an important development in you as an artist. (One finger on the phone keyboard doesn’t make for a detailed response – but there is lots to think about in what you are saying)

      • Well, that was just my negative voice. And thank you for your considered response – which probably took a while with one finger.
        Since I wrote that comment I have started to enjoy the drawing I am working on. So perhaps if I had read your comment just now, I wouldn’t have mentioned the ‘just copying from photo’ thing. But when I read it this morning I was still unsure of my motives and methods.

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