This is the fourth in a continuing series of profiles of Kyoto-based photographers. Each photographer chooses five of their favorite pictures from around Kyoto and tells us a little about what those pictures mean to them. So far the participants have each shown a unique and canny eye on the city they live in. Today’s participant, French traveler and photographer Frédéric Devos, is no exception. Here are his pictures and his thoughts on the same:
I started to shoot pictures of Maiko because, as any foreigner, I was attracted by this mysterious cliché we have of Japan. But the more I learned about Maiko, the more I learned about Kyoto and Japanese culture – because they know and promote so many aspects of that culture. The picture above is of Maiko Mamemaru going to Yasaka Jinja for Miyabikai, the ceremony where the Maiko from Gion-kobu pray to improve their practise of the arts. It’s a wonderful event where the Maiko are dressed in yukata without oshiroi (white make-up). I was waiting for the Maiko at the stairs of Yasaka to shoot some portraits. But they walked so quickly to avoid the crowd of photographers that it was difficult. However, I was glad to shoot this timeless picture of a Maiko carrying a red umbrella going through the red gate of Yasaka.
Are we in Japan? Yes, this is a cosplay costume player. Cosplay events regularly take place at Kyoto Manga Museum. I go there once in a while to shoot some portraits and though I have no particular knowledge about Manga, I am always impressed at how cosplayers do their best to reproduce the characters to the single detail, in both appearance and gesture. This is great fun in a nice atmosphere. Cosplayers are always friendly, enthusiastic, creative and they love taking pictures. For this portrait, I set the focus on her “blue eyes” with a 2.8 aperture to obtain this nice lighting.
Kyoto is full of treasures and attractions, and for anyone who likes taking pictures it is a constant inspiration. Temples and Zen gardens are so photogenic. Hosen-in Temple is one of them. Well, I could spend the whole day there, it is so beautiful, relaxing and refreshing. This temple is located in Ohara in the Northen part of Kyoto, a few minutes walk from Ohara’s main attraction: Sanzen-in Temple. I took this picture on a Saturday in July. It was almost empty so I could take tons of pictures of this inspiring and magnificent view. I used a 28mm lense and set a large aperture to obtain this blurred effect on the garden which looks like a painting. (Ed. Click on the image above to obtain a bigger picture)
There is always an interesting event going on in Kyoto. Matsuri (festivals) are part of them. There are several famous ones such as Gion Matsuri or Aoi Matsuri but I also enjoy “local” festivals; those of a city district or smaller temple. These are always very photogenic events. People of all ages from the same neighborhood gather and are involved in the preparation. It is a nice way to meet the neighbors, to promote culture and to transmit it to the younger generation. I wish we had something similar where I grew up in Paris. The picture above is from Imamiya Jinja Matsuri. I attended the preparation in the morning and watched these children who obviously would have preferred to do something else than to wait in the heat with such heavy clothes. But once the procession started, everyone was so enthusiastic. I like this picture because it shows so many things; people behaving as if it was normal to walk dressed in such costume in the middle of the traffic, modern and traditional Japan, proud parents following their children, photogenic umbrellas…
Kyoto’s good fortune is to be an “ancient capital”. It could preserve a rich cultural heritage yet remain a human-sized-city which makes it not only interesting but also a very nice place in which to live. There are so many parks and green spaces where you can walk, cycle or relax. And it is so relaxing to walk along the Kamogawa, Kyoto’s main river. This is a view from a bridge up to the Northern part of Kyoto. You feel like you are in the countryside although this is quite central. People and especially kids can cross the river walking on stones…
Frédéric Devos is French, passionate about Japan and about photography. He came to photography by traveling around the globe mainly to Europe, Asia and Latin America. He focuses on people, street life and portraits. He came to Japan in 98 for the first time, became fascinated by the unique atmosphere of Kyoto and always wanted to spend more time here. In 2006, his dream came true when he moved to Japan for a job opportunity and settled in Kyoto. Since then, he has been exploring Kyoto cultural treasures and mainly shooting with a Canon 50mm lens, designed for portraits.
You can view some of his best shots on his blog: Kyoto Images.