Kashiya Kokonotsu is a tea and confectionary studio based in Taito-ku, Tokyo. Owner Miho Mizoguchi is a seasoned tea master who leads saryo tea ceremonies at Buddhist temples regularly and is quite possibly one of the warmest individuals I have ever known. Upon meeting me at her studio, she took my hands in hers and thanked me for this “go-en,” or personal encounter.
The tea room interior, which I had the distinct pleasure of shooting, is a tranquil, womb-like space. Charcoal-laden wood shelves house a curated collection of delicate tea ceramics. White linens draped over the windows gently diffuse the midday light. In the center of the room is a long table with six chairs. “I offer one-hour tea room sessions when I am not working at the temple,” Mizoguchi-san tells me. “There are usually about 5-6 people. No words are exchanged. Just an hour of sipping tea, eating wagashi, and reveling in each other’s presence.”
Indeed, Mizoguchi-san created Kokonotsu to offer busy minds a place to rest, to indulge in her nationally-acclaimed handmade wagashi sweets and the quiet company of a few others. Her tea preparation is nuanced, meticulous, elegant. Her wagashi is light, minimal, nourishing. Every minute detail in Mizoguchi-san’s studio is a quiet contemplation of pathos and wabi-sabi aesthetics.
The structure embedded in these sessions ironically allows the recipient a beautifully expansive tea experience, reaching far-flung corners of the mind. After a short shoot in between saryo sessions Mizoguchi-san kindly offered me her latest wagashi creation made of a type of kankitsu citrus called Haruka – a sweet coincidence that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you Mizoguchi-san for a truly restorative experience.
Imani is a dancer who recently made her debut as a theatre actor in Andrew Ondrejcak’s play Elijah Green. “Elijah changed my life,” she told me as we chatted about her dance career, film aspirations and her recent features in Paper Mag and Vogue Italia. A woman of many talents, Imani is currently hatching up plans to direct her first music video while continuing to pursue a thriving dance and acting career here in NYC.
Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Imani radiates a palpable passion for life and its many incongruencies. She is strong yet compassionate, willful yet remarkably endearing. Imani and I met up several days after my return from Japan and her contagious smile lifted my spirit as I readjusted to life back in NYC. Truly, there’s nothing like meeting a new kindred spirit to quell homesickness. We did a quick test shoot in her apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The pale morning sun filtered in through the window as she savored a bedside smoke (or three).
Follow Imani on Instagram to learn more about what she’s up to in NYC.
Last month I had the opportunity to meet and shoot with Paola Mathe of Fanm Djanm on assignment for Fields Magazine. Fanm Djanm – meaning “strong woman” in Haitian Kreyol – is a thriving headwrap boutique inspired by African and Asian textiles. Each piece is handcrafted in NYC and serves as a wearable motif of quiet independence and cultural awareness.
Paola and I met up at her East Harlem studio and draped her in a dazzling array of fabrics to capture her eclectic spirit. Stay tuned for the entire feature on the Fields Magazine website.
Ivory, obsidian, gold. Imminent shadows curtailed by flecks of shimmering white. Gilded metal plates and prayer beads. Her hands reach for the light.
For this shadow play session, we draped the stunning Boshia with an assortment of tapestries and fine furs to capture her eclectic spirit. As she closed her eyes in prayer, the waning sun filtered in through the window casting a gentle light on her delicate features. The earthy aroma of white sage enveloped us as the smudge stick burned silently in the corner. Thank you, Boshia, for allowing me to capture this tender moment.
After having connected so well with Alex during this shoot in Greenpoint, it was only a matter of time before she kindly introduced me to her husband, Patrick. “He’s going to love you,” she said. The three of us met up in the Lower East Side for drinks and immediately hit it off over milk stouts and barbecue sammiches.
Fast forward: two months later. Here we are in a beautifully restored Victorian house in rural Connecticut for a quiet autumn getaway. We captured these shots in a small nook as the pale October sun filtered in through the weathered windows. The leaves outside were ten shades of ripened orange and gently cocooned us in warm, blushing light.
Alex and Patrick both grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. Though they were acquaintances throughout high school, they did not establish a connection until their early twenties when Alex had briefly returned to her hometown after sojourning through Barcelona and Morocco. “The first night we met up, she drank me under the table,” Patrick recalls sweetly. “We’ve been inseparable since.”
Quite the nomadic couple, Alex and Patrick have lived in Angers, France, Nashville, TN, Boston, Mass., Philadelphia, PA, and now – New York City. Each city adds a new layer of strength and character – not to mention a roster of hilarious anecdotes – to their thriving relationship. I am beyond grateful to have found myself in their meandering path.
Here’s to love, friendship and making the most out of our time here in NYC.