The Geisha Shoot that Never Was, and the Springtime Shoot it Became

If there is ever one thing I have learned in my years, it is that even the best laid plans can fail, no matter how far in advance you begin outlining said plans. Last year, I had wanted to do a geisha shoot with the cherry blossoms. The old geisha and sakura shot….I want it badly. I know, I know, the whole concept is OUTRAGEOUSLY overdone, but with my actual knowledge and experience in Japanese culture, I felt I could truly do it justice, and do it right. So when spring was approaching in 2011, I made all the arrangements, I booked an MUA/hair stylist; I found a photographer, and found out when the peak bloom–when the trees were predicted to be at their fullest blossom– would be. I set a date, and I was ready…..

            But then my photographer cancelled.

            He apologized and rescheduled with me, I quickly contacted my MUA/stylist and updated her on the situation and worked it out with her, and I hoped to catch the tail end of the peak bloom period…..

            Then he cancelled again, the night before the shoot.

            I understand; things happen. Life happens. But I was disheartened, because I knew by this point, there was no way we’d make it out in time to capture the blooms. I scrapped the project, and decided I would focus my efforts towards the following spring—this year.

            During this time I actually took the time to research kimono and geisha. Did you know that the colors of a kimono worn by a geisha are supposed to reflect the season as well as the formality of an occasion? I even learned, during my research, that certain colors and patterns of kimono are only worn during certain seasons.

            Another little known fact about kimono that most gaijin in general do not observe is the style of kimono worn is often ascribed to women of a certain age. Kimono for unwed young ladies called furisode kimono have extremely long sleeves which almost touch the floor; the complete opposite of the tomesode with the mid length sleeves worn by older and married women. There are specific rules on how to tie the obi for each style as well, and what type of obi to wear. The whole look has a lot more that goes into it than what most Westerners realize. I wanted to go as close to traditional as possible and wanted to dress appropriately….but none of the kimono I own are furisode; the nicest one I have is a formal tomesode, and when I even considered obtaining a nice furisode kimono I was greeted with prices equal to a used car for new pieces, and even “antique” and recycled furisode kimono ranged between $175-$700.

            So yeah, being 100% accurate to tradition is a bit outside of my budget for now, but it’s not like most people would notice. For all most people know, I could wear a yukata and they’d think it was a kimono. Besides, learning all I learned about kimono was fascinating and worth the time. A pretty cool site that sells traditional Japanese fashion called Shimazakura has a pretty interesting breakdown chart of the different types of kimono and how and where to wear them. If you are interested, that chart can be found here

            Too poor to buy a furisode, I decided to shoot in my tomesode at peak bloom time this year. I spoke to George Skepton, a good friend and amazing photographer I know, and asked him if he’d work with me on this project and he agreed, suggesting we should probably aim for working in a place other than DC due to the extreme amount of traffic that comes through for the Sakura Matsuri every year, in addition to the raised amount of traffic that would be brought by the fact that 2012 is the centennial of the gift giving of the cherry trees to Washington DC by Japan as a sign of goodwill.

            I began researching; looking for other spots we could shoot that may have less foot traffic. I found a pretty interesting spot in Bethesda, and was ready to go.

            But then……peak bloom came early this year.

            This would have been a minor issue for me, if not for the fact that I currently work for the Board of Elections for my actual “day job”, and our Primary Election was on April 3rd. I was working 10-12 hour days almost everyday, and had no time to shoot. By the time I had a day off (which I really had to fight for) most of the blooms were reportedly already gone.

            George, still willing to shoot, suggested we try something else. So again I put my geisha idea on the back burner, disappointed I wouldn’t get that geisha image with the sakura blooming which I had in my head and wanted so badly to add to my portfolio. We opted for another idea, which George had presented me with a while back. He had asked me if I had a long white dress, or a wedding gown he could shoot me in, and at the time he had asked, I didn’t. But while thrifting a month ago, I had actually picked up a nice long white dress for only $15, so I suggested doing something with that.

            George asked me to meet him at Clyburn Arboretum in Baltimore and I thought it would be no problem.

            I thought wrong.

            When I went to leave my house to drive to the shoot that day, I discovered a road near my house was closed, and all traffic was being re-routed down the same road which had only one lane of traffic in either direction. Moving at a snail’s pace, it took me nearly a half an hour just to get to the nearest exit for the highway that is only about 3 minutes away. I ended up being an hour late to the shoot, which was highly embarrassing, but unavoidable as the circumstances were.

            Once we got in, things were great. Clyburn is BEAUTIFUL. It’s hard to believe a place like that can exist so close to the city. Unfortunately we couldn’t shoot inside the building there, but the gardens outside were beautiful, and it just so happened that we ran into Ken Morrill doing a shoot at the same time we were, which was amusing.

            Despite the many trials and tribulations leading up to this shoot, in the end I sort of got what I wanted. Before we left, we went into one area where there were a group of cherry trees. Though they were shedding their flowers, they were still in bloom, and we got a few shots there, including these which are some of my favorites so far:

            I cannot wait to see the rest of this set once George finishes it. It had been so long since we did a one on one shoot and it was nice to get outside and work with him again. Want to see more? Check out my facebook fan page.

           I am also pleased to report that I spent the afternoon after the shoot brainstorming an idea for a really awesome horror type concept with Jim O’Connor at Bean Hollow in Ellicott City over lunch. I am truly pumped for this, and it will certainly be a 180 from the stuff I have just posted here. I look forward to it, because anyone who knows me knows I love the darkness. 😛

            Until next time…..

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