Geisha, Maiko, and Me I have been photographing geisha and maiko in Kyoto since 2002, and both my photography of them and relationships with them have evolved greatly over the years. From 2002-2006, I was a street photographer with no connections and little real knowledge of the world of geisha and maiko. Most of my work from these years is what I call motion portraits, images of geisha and maiko walking towards me, passing by, and then moving away. I first saw a geisha at night passing under a street lamp, and I think I started to photograph geisha and maiko in motion as a way of recapturing that first moment of epiphany. I was so excited to find subjects that fascinated me so much that I would exclaim "Thank you!" as the geisha or maiko walked away from me. Many ignored me, but some started to acknowledge me and even chat with me for a few moments. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had started to develop relationships that would last for many years. This period culminated in December 2006 when my first book, One Hundred Views of Maiko and Geiko, was published in Japan. 2007 and 2008 were transitional years for me. I was no longer a complete outsider, but I wasn't a true insider, either. I had developed some connections as I obtained permission to include photos in One Hundred Views of Maiko and Geiko, but these relationships were still in the early stages. In February 2007 I started my second book, Geisha & Maiko of Kyoto: Beauty, Art, & Dance, a more in-depth look at four geisha and maiko I had come to know. I really developed my skills as both a photographer and as someone knowledgeable about the world of geisha and maiko while working on this book. In my early years, I had about ten to fifteen seconds to capture my motion portraits. If a geisha or maiko was willing to stop and pose, I had about thirty seconds. Once or twice a geisha was very kind and gave me about three minutes. I could control the background only by asking my subject to move a step or two to the left or right, and all my work was lit by either sunlight or available light from street lamps and vending machines. With Geisha & Maiko of Kyoto: Beauty, Art, & Dance, I had much more control. I still did photography on the streets of Gion Kobu and Miyagawa-cho, but instead of having only seconds to take a portrait, I had anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. I chose the spots I wanted to photograph, so I had much greater control over the posing, backgrounds, and lighting. I still used only sunlight or available light, but I supplemented this light with reflectors and often asked the geisha or maiko herself to hold the reflector. This would have been unthinkable just a few months earlier. I also had the opportunity to photograph the geisha during Miyako Odori and Kyo Odori, their major dance performances. Working with stage lighting was a new experience, so I attended each dance as many times as I could and sat in as many different places in the theaters as possible so I could capture the dances from the best angles. Most importantly, I started holding sessions inside ochaya, the teahouses where geisha and maiko entertain at parties called ozashiki. Ochaya have very low ceilings and are quite narrow, but I was able to use one strobe light with an umbrella and reflectors. This was also a new style for me then. Of course, since I was photographing geisha and maiko anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours at a time and was meeting them almost once a month, I was learning much more about them professionally and personally. I interviewed them about their lives and learned basically everything I had wanted to know about geisha and maiko that I was unable to ask when I was just a street photographer. In June 2009, Geisha & Maiko of Kyoto: Beauty, Art, & Dance was published. It had taken eight years, but I had grown tremendously as both a photographer and as a person with knowledge of the world of geisha and maiko. As William Blake wrote, "If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise." In 2009 I was at a crossroads. The last of the maiko I had known since my early days had just become a geisha, and my plan since 2002 had been to publish two books on geisha and maiko. I had done that. I had never thought about what I would do next. I decided I would continue to photograph the young geisha I knew just because I loved to photograph them, but I didn't know any young maiko since I hadn't been doing street photography in several years. I asked the owner of an ochaya to introduce me to some maiko I had never met before, and everything changed. The maiko I had met when I was just starting knew me only as a photographer on the street. The maiko I meet now know me as a photographer with two successful books on geisha and maiko, books that their onesan (older geisha and maiko) have appeared in and books that they have seen themselves in the kaburenjo (the main office of each geisha district). Some maiko can even tell me which one of my photos is their favorite. More importantly, I am a photographer and a customer of an ochaya, two ochaya actually. The world of the hanamachi (geisha districts) is a very closed society. A new customer has to be formally introduced by an existing customer, and some families have been customers for generations. I was never formally introduced to an ochaya, and I don't consider myself on the same level as long-time Japanese customers. I grew up in a middle-class family in the suburbs of New York City, and my parents were teachers who stressed the importance of education and an appreciation of the arts. To say I come from a different cultural and socio-economic background than most customers of ochaya would be a massive understatement. Yet, to the maiko and geisha I meet now, I am a customer of an ochaya, and that brings a certain level of trust, comfort, and acceptance that I could only have imagined in my early years. In addition, it is clear from the start to every geisha and maiko I photograph now that my work will appear in books and could be used for other commercial purposes. I don't need to worry about obtaining permission anymore. I am currently working with several geisha and maiko. I photograph them at least twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Since I have been photographing in ochaya for quite a few years now, I bring a full studio set-up of strobes, light modifiers, reflectors, background paper, and other equipment. Sometimes I treat a shoot as if I am in a studio, and sometimes I want it to be clear that I am on location. I think of most of my work since 2009 as dance portraits, photographs of the geisha and maiko in the elegant poses from their dances. I have much more control in my ochaya/studio than I did back in 2007 when I was photographing the geisha and maiko during their live dance performances. Even after ten years photographing geisha and maiko, I still feel as excited as I did when I was first discovering this beautiful and mysterious world. In fact, if I had to choose between photographing the most beautiful supermodel or actress, the most powerful world leader, or a geisha or maiko, I would still choose the geisha or maiko. I have found my muses, and they have been singing to me, siren-like, for ten years. I know more than I once did, but I still have much to learn, about photography, the hanamachi, and myself. How long the songs will last I do not know, but I look forward to each new verse every spring and fall.