Unearthing The Spirit of Living Art: Secret Moments 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.

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

Secret Moments of Maikos: The Grace, Beauty and Mystery of Apprentice Geishasis a photography book of more than 80 images capturing the essence of young women apprenticing to be geishas in Kyoto’s Gion Quarter. It also features translations of old traditional Japanese haikus which seem to foreshadow the moments captured within its pages.

Award-winning photographer Philippe Marinig entered the intimacy of this world, drawn to the challenge of unveiling rare moments of the ancient Japanese profession.

Coming 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. Though 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 observation and passion for revealing the hidden aspects of various subjects, he devoted himself to various artistic projects in Europe, Southern Africa and, most recently, Japan.

Uncovering the layers behind the veneer of the maikos, however, was not an easy task. Marinig’s project was first seen as impossible as his goal was to observe the women of one of the most private realms today and capture them in a rare and relaxed state. However, by being brutally honest and without a mention of vague promises, he slowly gained the trust of the geishas, who gave him permission to observe and chronicle.

With every click of the shutter, Marinig captured raw moments in the maikos' lives — their enigmatic gazes; masks ever-so-slightly lifted for a millisecond. By capturing these moments and not giving the women time to settle, pose or avoid the camera, Marinig filled the pages of the book with photographs which 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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