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Award winning photography celebrating the artistry of geiko and maiko and the exquisite traditions of their Kyoto communities.
Award winning photography celebrating the artistry of geiko and maiko and the exquisite traditions of their Kyoto communities.
Award winning photography celebrating the artistry of geiko and maiko and the exquisite traditions of their Kyoto communities.
294 backers pledged AU$ 24,201 to help bring this project to life.

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Geiko and Maiko of Kyoto

AU$ 24,201

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Once the campaign ends, and as soon as books are shipped, copies will be available on my website: www.robertvankoesveld.com/shop

Late one night in an empty cobblestoned street in Kyoto, a woman sheltering beneath a red umbrella glided past me. I saw in an instant something in her face – luminous eyes, an aloof expression – that gave her beauty a sense of timelessness and exquisite grace. What I experienced as presence. This moment took place on my first visit to the city that had been Japan’s capital for over a thousand years. And it was this image of an unknown woman in an empty street that impelled me to begin this book three years ago.

Since that first encounter I have returned several times to Kyoto to interview and photograph geiko and maiko. There have been dozens of photography sessions and I have attended many performances. Over time I began to know more about these special artists and the communities that nurture and support them. I have included a section about some of these special people who tend the 'garden' of the kagai so that the reader gets a feeling of the village that it takes to raise a fully trained geiko.

With your support this beautiful book can now be printed so as to be more widely available.   It will be hardback, 160 pages, 210mm (8.27") square, with a laminated gloss jacket and weigh around 1kg (2.2lb) when packed.

Toshimana – Miyagawacho Kagai
Toshimana – Miyagawacho Kagai

Is this book about Geisha?

Kind of. The Kyoto terms are ‘geiko’ for the fully trained artists and ‘maiko’ for those still in training. For a long time I was going to use the word 'geisha' in the title, as it is best known to westerners, but eventually I realised that enough people who live and work in the five kagai (historical districts) really (really) preferred me not to. I have used the Kyoto terms since my first visit anyway, so decided to stick with them. Geisha is the term used in other parts of Japan.

Design prototype of this book.
Design prototype of this book.

The Design Process

The book has evolved through a number of iterations with major input from designers. The text has been professionally edited as well as checked by local experts. I returned to Kyoto when I needed different images or more background research. Nearly all of the maiko and geiko were photographed at least twice. Slowly the final design and content has evolved. In November 2015 the latest book prototype won the Canon -  AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards Photo Book of the Year category and a gold medal. In finalising the images and text for print we have improve it further. 

The Opening Spread; Tsunekazu – Gion Higashi Kagai
The Opening Spread; Tsunekazu – Gion Higashi Kagai

What's in the Book?

The book begins with an essay that gives a context to the images and shares some of my learning as I began to study geiko and maiko, and interview some key people. This is followed by photographs of eleven different maiko and geiko, with an intervening picture essay about an evening with maiko (ozashiki-asobi, often translated as a 'party'). 

Then there are sections on the ‘garden’ of the kagai that nurtures these precious cultural 'flowers', the annual odori, short biographies and a glossary. My goal has been to make a sequence that can communicate something of the experience of meeting these unique women.

I have revealed the impact of their maturing artistry and ‘presence’ by including images of maiko at various stages of training as well as new geiko and senior geiko. Women from each of the five kagai are included.   I was also lucky to (eventually) obtain photographic access to two odori performances, the stunning stage productions put on annually by each kagai. 

Ayano – Pontocho Kagai
Ayano – Pontocho Kagai

My Hope

Through you enabling a full print run of the book, I hope a wider audience can be made aware of the rich and precious tradition still thriving in Kyoto and seek ways to see them perform when they visit Kyoto, rather than just see them walk by.

Risks and challenges

This book is now absolutely ‘print ready’. Multiple drafts have been edited, the design work is behind us and the files have been polished for print. In November the book (in it’s prototype form) won the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers Award for Photo Book of the Year. So we know the book looks very professional, and in fact it is even better now. The files have been sent to the printer and we will shortly have the complete dyeline proofs back for final colour checking. It is ready to go.

I am very confident about the printer. They have been great to deal with. My previous book, 'Bhutan Heartland', was printed by them and they have been used for many years by that publisher, Fremantle Press.

Shipping delays are always a possibility. We will ship to both Japan and Australia and then on-ship from those countries to you. This will reduce risks as the chance of delays impacting both ports is low. We will deal with any unforeseen issues as efficiently as we can.

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    Special boxed edition of the signed book . *NEW BOX ORDER COMING* This is the same Japanese style wooden box edition to be presented to those who I photographed for the project. Free shipping anywhere. I will need to order more boxes to be made at the end of the campaign, so need to allow a little more time for this extended option to be filled. More details are on the update section. However please note: This reward does NOT include a print.

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    Special boxed edition of the signed book plus an original 200mm square print. This is the same Japanese style wooden box edition to be presented to those photographed for the project. Free shipping.

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    LATE REQUEST - BOX & CARDS
    Special boxed edition of the signed book plus five postcards. This is the same Japanese style wooden box edition to be presented to those photographed for the project. Free shipping. *NEW BOX ORDER COMING* I will need to order more boxes to be made at the end of the campaign, so need to allow a little more time for this extended option to be filled.

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    Special boxed edition of the signed book plus an original 200mm square print. *NEW BOX ORDER COMING* This is the same Japanese style wooden box edition to be presented to those who I photographed for the project. Free shipping. I will need to order more boxes to be made at the end of the campaign, so need to allow a little more time for this extended option to be filled.

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    Memorabilia Special

    Boxed edition of the book with a set of 10 Hanameishi calling cards from maiko and geiko featured in the book and three different odori program booklets. Free shipping.

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    A signed copy of the book plus your choice of a fine art print from the ‘Seeing Geiko’ exhibition to be held in Kyoto in May 2016. Paper size 70cm by 50cm (actual print size will vary).
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Funding period

- (24 days)