"Expo 70 was to take place in Osaka, Japan, and the editors at LOOK Magazine decided it would be an ideal time to do another of Maroon's "mind bogglers" - American fashions based on traditional Japanese costumes, photographed in appropriate settings in Japan. I had never been to Japan before, but had a preconceived vision of what I would find, derived largely from "Madama Butterfly", geisha girls, Kabuki players, and romantic wood block paintings of temples and shrines. The reality, I discovered, was very different. Japan had turned modern since Puccini last looked, and although the traditional was still there, it was more elusive than I would have liked. However, there was no justification for my going to such remote locations to photograph fashions if the settings didn't reflect the tradition and culture of the country, so I had my work cut out for me.
In the end the search paid off, and by the time Jo Segal, fashion editor of LOOK, and the model arrived, I had found what I wanted. I got architectural honesty, historical integrity, and (sometimes) light made in heaven. Threefers, in photographic jargon! Three rich locations were Kyoto, Nikko and Nara. The Buddhist priests in the shoji-screened serenity of their temple in Kyoto, the ornate Yomeimon Gate at Nikko and the Buddha Temple at Nara all provided brilliant settings for us. The extraordinary costumes of the Kabuki players (once they had been persuaded to cooperate) were perfect complements to the Japanese-inspired clothes we had brought with us. And what more appropriate way to accessorize those clothes than with pearls? A request was made to Mikimoto, the pearl dealers, and a courier was dispatched from Tokyo to deliver to us in Kyoto a double rope of rare, large pearls. These he carried in a small brown paper bag, that looked like it could have contained his lunch. His logic was unassailable; who would think a bag like that would have over one million dollars worth of pearls in it?
Finding locations was one challenge; getting permission was another. There was a huge language and culture gap between the Japanese and myself. Although unfailingly polite and well-mannered, their responses to my requests usually fell into one of two categories. Either they would tell me that what I wanted - a train ticket or a hotel reservation - was quite impossible (but when I persisted and forced them to come through I would find myself on a nearly empty train, or the only guest in the hotel), or they would cheerfully agree with whatever I asked ("A parade next Wednesday? Yes, yes!"), whether or not it had any basis in reality, because they considered it rude to disagree. Neither approach made my life easy.
Most of my photography is done at daybreak and dusk, in order to capture that romantic, dramatic light. Getting up at four in the morning in order to be on camera by six wasn't always the most painless way to do my work, but it was the only way. If we were late and missed the light, that meant half the day was down the drain. On one morning, after an evening of rain in Nikko, I made my way to the gates of the temple where I intended to do the photograph. The early sun began to rise, and to cast visible rays of light that pierced the mist. I knew this romantic condition would not last long, and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the model and crew. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The light came and went with nothing on location except me and my rage. The model had overslept, and by the time they arrived, what had been magical had become ordinary. I was fit to be tied for the rest of the day. We tried again the next morning, and although everyone arrived on schedule that time, the mystic light did not, and the black pebbles at the model's feet were dry and dull instead of wet and glistening. Thirty years later it still haunts me! For reasons that every fisherman understands, the big ones that get away stay etched in your brain forever."