Isolation Antidotes (22): Stepping High

I have written before of my photographic angel Frances, who provides me with unforeseen opportunities and leads me to unexpected discoveries. She was working overtime on a particular day in November 1993 while I was on a work trip to Japan. I had had a very full schedule during the week and, though my weekends were usually free for exploration, I had to use one of the days on this particular weekend for travel to another distant part of the country, so I had only this one Saturday available in Tokyo. I was staying in a modest hotel in the Roppongi district and had just finished a very nice breakfast. I returned to my room to ponder what would be the best, most fun way to use this precious time. When I opened my mind to inspiration, it came. I hadn’t been to a shrine yet, and I decided to go to the largest one that was relatively convenient to my present location. After consulting my map and the friendly concierge, I settled on the Meiji Shrine. As I recall, I rode the subway for three or four stops and walked another half-mile or so. As soon as I entered the grounds, I knew I was about to experience something extraordinary. My luck was such that this was, “coincidentally,” the special day annually set aside for honoring children. As it was explained to me, and as my admittedly somewhat unreliable memory recalls, parents dressed up their 5- and 9-year-old daughters and their 7-year-old sons and took them for special ceremonies at their favorite shrines. As a result, not only were there many dozens of adorable children everywhere I looked, but also it seemed that every adult had at least one film camera and at least one video camera, and everyone seemed to be photographing their own children, everyone else, and every one else’s children—and so, in effect, I was practically invisible and had free rein to shoot at will. I had two SLRs, one for black-and-white work and the other for color. For this photo I had my Pentax SF-1N loaded with Tri-X (pushed to ISO 800) and a Pentax 100-300 mm zoom lens. During the course of the day I made several of what have become some of my favorite images in my entire archives. This is one of them, scanned from my original negative.

About krikitarts

Welcome to Krikit Arts! I'm a veterinarian; photographer; finger-style guitarist, composer, instructor, and singer/songwriter; fisherman; and fly-tyer. Please enjoy--and please respect my full rights to all photos on this Website!
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21 Responses to Isolation Antidotes (22): Stepping High

  1. Ms. Liz says:

    Oh, wow. This is one of the most adorable photos I’ve ever seen. It’s really super special!

    • krikitarts says:

      Thanks so much, Liz. I absolutely love the expression on her face. I think she had had quite enough of being prim and pretty and wanted nothing more than to change back into play clothes and be a normal kid again.

  2. Vicki says:

    What a delightful image. Looks like she’s raising her leg to admire the beautiful design on the lower part of her kimono. Or……any other reason, like her kimono folds are getting tangled and she needs to untangle them.
    Her hair decoration contrasts and shows up beautifully against the dark background too. So much to admire about the whole scene and I’ll bet you were glad to get her without hoards of others milling around distracting and making a potential image too busy.

    • krikitarts says:

      I saw her start to cross the little courtyard, leaned against a pillar, and followed her progress with rapt attention. I still can’t believe she was so alone and isolated for this magic moment.

  3. We can wonder what she was saying or singing.

  4. shoreacres says:

    A child’s un-selfconscious absorption in a given moment is a marvelous thing to witness, let alone to capture. You were lucky.

    I was curious about the celebration itself, and when I looked, I found a reference to a Japanese children’s day that must be different that what you experienced, since it’s held on May 5. But the description I read said that the day’s meant as an occasion “to respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness.” I’d say your photo does both.

    • krikitarts says:

      Maybe things have changed since I was there on November 6, 1993 (I was keeping a notebook of metadata and it was also my parents’ anniversary). Anything’s possible!

      • shoreacres says:

        Of course, there’s no reason Japanese culture couldn’t have added a few extra festivals along the way, either. We’ve certainly found ways to do that in this country!

  5. Love the sandle about to go flying… Kids all over the world are all the same deep down 😁

  6. This is a wonderful moment captured so beautifully! I can see why it is one of your favourites, Gary!

    • krikitarts says:

      A print of this (a conventional one that I made in my B&W darkroom some 27 years ago) has had a place on one of our walls for decades. Thanks very much, Pete!

  7. Adrian Lewis says:

    A moment absolutely wonderfully caught! :)

  8. “A child’s un-selfconscious absorption”—shoreacres’s description is right on the mark. What a pity we lose that ability as we grow up. Thank you for catching it, Gary, and sharing it with us. It’s a wonderful photograph.

    • krikitarts says:

      I have faith that we still have the ability to recall the ability to look at some things with childlike wonder, and I cherish that when I am able to. Thanks very much, Linda!

  9. bluebrightly says:

    That does sound wonderful! I second Linda’s comment.

  10. Great capture of an innocent moment in a child’s life. How were the ages for the celebration determined? I’ve always wondered, not enough to research it I am embarrassed to admit, why 13 for a Bar Mitzvah. It seems many of the folks from Japan like to take many pictures so you would just blend in compared to the suspicion provoked by someone randomly photographing children here.

    • krikitarts says:

      Exactly so. I’m always cautious making candid shots of others in a public place, especially children. It’s sad–but quite understandable–that we have to be so circumspect.

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