Akhibara Geisha: Final Composites

Fall has been intense. It has been a time to develop my ideas and to prepare for the flow of upcoming catalogue; it has been a time to archive my best photos from the Japan trip and to learn how to use much of the gear I bought this year. This morning Lady V. left for a two week adventure through Cambodia, Bangkok and Saigon, which will undoubtedly yield some amazing images from her in the upcoming weeks. In this post I wanted to share the final composites from the series I shot in and around Akhibara, the electric town of Tokyo. All of these images were shot using medium format film that was then digitized, retouched in Photoshop CS4 and then composited together to create a specific look. I was not trying to make the images seamless, though adding slight shadows in some cases added a sense of hyper-real.

Koya San Geisha

The idea for this series came to me as I watched the maid cafe girls work their trade outside on the streets. Their work is simple: lure the geeks in from buying transistors and manga statues to have lunch with them. The girls feed you and play children’s games; not my cup of tea experience, but fascinating nonetheless when juxtaposed against the traditional concept of the geisha. The traditional geisha served the same purpose of providing men with attention and simple serving gestures. It is not a sexual engagement, but rather a transaction in the floating world of the imagination where men can escape the demands of their pressured lives. There is a definite sexual tension for Western viewers that I just do not feel would be there for an Japanese audience.

My first in the series shows a woman on her way to work at a restaurant. Her kimono-styled outfit has become more popular with the youthful girls seeking to stand out from their closet-disaster fashion sisters. The palette of pinks and blues are unique to Japan, and I just had to juxtapose her against a male monk walking towards prayers in the Koya-San graveyard.


Hiroshima Geisha

The challenge with these images was to find suitable images to place the electric geisha into. While I had taken many photos on Ilford 120 film, finding ones with the proper scaling proved to be a task of many trials. In the end, I chose to place the maids in Hiroshima at a Kirin Beer arch. Just having the dragon brand form a triangle made sense aesthetically. It is a shame that these images have not been printed yet, but I do think they demand 16×20 0r 20×24 metallic c-prints to show the fine details of the medium format and to contrast the colour figures against the black and white scenes.

Finally, I chose to place a dancer on her way to work against the serene arch of Ueno Park. She is a thin rake, but the real irony is her bag, which is twice her size, but that features a rip-off of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas image called Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare. Like the skeletal Jack, she heaves her treats across town, misunderstood and alone.

Ueno Park Geisha-1

Tomorrow begins with setting up the first of this season’s images for Paderno Cookware. Product shoots are always interesting puzzles to solve. I also had a chance to shoot a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 in my 35mm camera, while I was camping. I am hoping that some of these images will make it to the website soon. Next week I am off to Philadelphia for a conference, food and some photography.



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