Unearthing The Spirit of Living Art: Secret Moments of Maikos

SLIDESHOW: A look into the intimate, rare details of the lives of maikos.

A photography book that showcases the intimate, rare details of the lives of maikos — young women apprenticing to be geishas — in Kyoto’s Gion Quarter.

Secret Moments of Maikos: The Grace, Beauty and Mystery of Apprentice Geishas is a photography book of more than 80 images capturing the essence of young women apprenticing to be geishas in Kyoto’s Gion Quarter. Award-winning photographer Philippe Marinig entered the intimacy of this world, drawn to the challenge of unveiling a rare moment of the ancient Japanese profession.

Stemming from a family of artists, it was no surprise when Marinig showed interest in photography at a young age, which eventually led to the establishment of his own company in 1992. While he studied photography in Boston and worked as a freelance photographer for French newspaper Libération and Globe cultural magazine, his experience in South Africa, learning how to photograph wildlife in particular, is what truly honed his skills in revealing the concealed —a trademark of his identity.

With his unique sense of observing and perpetual passion in revealing the raw form of the hidden nature of the worlds, he devoted himself to various artistic projects in Europe, Southern Africa and now, Japan.

Uncovering the veneer, however, was not an easy task. Marinig’s project was deemed impossible as his goal was to observe the women of one of the most private realms today and capture them in a rare, relaxed state. However, with brutal honesty stripped of vague promises, he gained the trust of the geishas, signalling the start of the avant-garde project.

With every click of the shutter, came the enigmatic gaze; yet the mask ever-so-slightly faltered thanks to Marinig’s adept use of the camera in capturing the women. They are not given time to settle, pose or flee, filling the pages of the book with photographs that reflect the compassion and tenderness beneath the usually impeccable facade.

Within the volume, Marinig’s photographs are followed by haikus intricately printed on French-fold pages married with Japanese minimalism, further enshrining the nature of these urban impalas.

Richard Collasse, President and Representative Director of Chanel KK, Japan, commends Marinig’s refined finesse as his photographs are "much more than painted faces, perfect kimonos and stiffened shells of hair". Indeed, the series of photographs shine light on the unknown, offering us an unprecedented perspective on the lives of maikos today.

Purchase a copy of Secret Moments of Maikos: The Grace, Beauty and Mystery of Apprentice Geishas by visiting the Gatehouse Publishing Store or clicking here.

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