Geisha photo exhibition - Behind the myth


Photographer Paul van der Veer

Maastricht photographer Paul van der Veer (1966) was originally a graphic designer and illustrator. At the end of 2013 he followed the professional photographer course. He didn't know it then, but a trip to Japan at the beginning of the same year was going to determine the rest of his life: he came face to face with a geisha.

In late 2015, he decided to return to Japan to photograph the geishas. He knew from his first trip that he could photograph on the street, but he wanted more ... However, the geisha world was known for being very closed and that new customers could only be introduced through an existing valued relationship. But he didn't know anyone and didn't speak Japanese.

An online article in the New York Post finally turned out to be the solution: a geisha from Nara had traveled to New York on his own to promote the geisha culture ... it would have no problem to be photographed by a Western photographer. .. An email to the organization in the US was answered and in April 2016 geisha Kikuno was in front of his camera.

In 2017 he also found an entrance in the geisha house Miyagawacho in Kyoto that he loved so much: the geisha house Hanafusa. The geisha mother immediately noticed that he photographed differently from what she was used to from the Japanese photographers who occasionally had access to her students. The built-up relationship of trust last summer resulted in him being admitted to the private rooms of the geisha house.

The preliminary highlight followed last November when he was invited to document the promotion of maiko (student geisha) Kikuyae to geiko. A ceremony that is extremely private and has been captured by few photographers.