“My photography style is more edgy and sexual compared to the typical Japanese fashion photography. I’m constantly pushing the boundaries and seeing how much I can get away with.”
Maya Kibbel is a twenty year old Eurasian photographer, half Japanese, half American who grew up in American then moved to Tokyo. She is a contributing photographer for Galore Magazine and Cobrasnake. Her sexual yet playful photography makes us fawn over her pictures
Tell us about your upbringing. How did it shape you to get into photography?
My dad passed away when I was one and on his death bed he asked his best friend to watch after me & my mum. That best friend happened to be the Jonas’ father (yes, Jonas as in Jonas brothers). Nick has been my best friend since I was in diapers, Kevin & Joe are like big bros and Frankie is my little bro. I spent every holiday and any free time I had with Nick & the family growing up. When they started blowing up they moved to LA and took me and my mum with them. (1. Up till then I had been born & raised in NY/NJ. 2. I was 12 at the time) That was when the craziness started. Miley & Selena were my first friends in LA. I have some pretty hilarious memories with them. I spent the first 2 years of living in LA on tour with my bros. Tour life was fucking amazing. I was on the management/body guard bus. We’d have dance parties every night on our tour bus and other fun shit. After the tours I worked my ass off and graduated high school (with honors!!) by 14. When I turned 15 I realized I had no photos of any tours, places, movie premieres, TV sets or even photos of just me and my friends. So I immediately started photographing every minute of my insane life. I instantly fell in love with shooting, started to take interest in fashion (my 2nd love) photography and realized there was nothing more I loved than photography and that I was made to be a photographer. Around this time I practically lived with Brenda Song (the ultimate big sis). She as well as Camilla Belle & the photographer at the time for the Jonas’ really encouraged me to pursue my photography and gave me the best advice and guidance that I could have ever dreamed of receiving. Because of all those factors, photography became my life. That is why I like to think of my photography as a visual diary.
Do you come from an artistic family/background?
Well my 2nd family (the Jonas’) is clearly very talented and artistic in many different ways and genres. My mum is extremely creative and from what I hear about my father, he seemed to be eccentrically avant-garde. I believe that growing up around so many different kinds of arts and ingenious creative minds had a really strong positive impact on me.
What occupation do your parents have?
As I mentioned, my father is deceased but he worked quite high up on the totem pole at Sony America. In fact, the people at the company used to call him “Mr. Sony”. My mum is my co-manager, which is awesome because we are definitely each other’s best friend. My mom is super fucking chill and has always let me be the free, wild spirit I am. Even my friends love hanging out with her!
Describe what it’s like to grow up in Tokyo; did you just grow up in Japan or also in other countries around the world?
I actually didn’t grow up in Tokyo. In fact when I moved here I couldn’t speak a word of Japanese. (Not to worry I’m fluent now) I was born and raised in New York and New Jersey till I was 12. From 12 to 16 I was based in LA but lived part time in NYC and Dallas throughout those 4 years. When I was 16 I moved to Tokyo, I planned on going to photography school but bailed on that when one of my best friends offered me an opportunity I couldn’t say no to. That opportunity was to be the official Japan photographer for The Cobra Snake. Mark Hunter is the only boss I’ve ever had and I adore him and am forever grateful he hired me for the Cobra Snake job because it launched my career, helped me make incredible friends and learn Japanese. Plus I have a life times worth of crazy ass party stories and photos now haha.
“The important part is treating your body right, feeling healthy and remembering we are all individuals that come in different heights, shapes and sizes, so embrace your unique, sexy self babes!”
Is your style of photography common in Tokyo?
Actually it’s the opposite of common. My photography style is more edgy and sexual compared to the typical Japanese fashion photography. I’m constantly pushing the boundaries and seeing how much I can get away with. There have been many occasions that managers have told me poses, outfits or lack of outfits (I do most of my own styling) were not acceptable but I still pursued the shots I wanted and in the end the photos were actually loved.
Do you do photography full-time?
Yes. (FINALLY!) On the side I do social media promotional work. I also occasionally do journalism work for magazines, social media & my Numero Japan blog.
Does being Eurasian shape how you see things?
I guess technically if you look into my roots I’m of German/Russian decent as well as being half Japanese but being that my dad’s side of the family has lived in America for so many generations (and I was born there too), I say I’m half American/half Japanese. I love my mix because America and Japan are DIRE opposite in every possible way. The food, the people, the way of life and mentality, even the sentence structure (haha geek moment). So yes, it does shape the way I see things. I think very diversely because I have two very different and unique cultures integrated into my brain. For instance, Japanese people are very conservative so when I first started working and making friends in Tokyo people were astonished at how open and wild I am. Or when I’m working I’ll be fucking blasting music, I’ll bring snacks and drinks & have fun with the models.
Describe your relationship with Mona and Cailin Hill–how did that start?
With Mona, I met her when I shot her backstage at a Marc Jacobs trunk show about 3 years ago. Then a year and a half ago we ran into each other again, hung out and from that time on any day or even hour we both have off we are always, always together. We are typically running around, getting into fucking crazy ass adventures, laughing till we can’t breathe & dancing A LOT. She’s truly my best friend and our bond is on another level deep. We know we are always there for each other, no matter what or where we are. Or what time it is.
With Cailin, I actually was looking for models to shoot, saw her instagram and immediately was intrigued. Not just by her stunning looks but by her charismatic Instagram, so I messaged her and we got to talking the soon after we met up. It was an immediate connection. She’s incredibly inspiring and a visionary extraordinaire. Every time we hang out it becomes some sort of photo shoot or creatively stimulating art talk. I also admire her wisdom and the advice she gives me on any topics. This past summer we did so much, from EDM raves to going to Japanese festivals wearing traditional Japanese “yukata”. All I have to say is we always have a good ass time.
You have a few cool distinct styles, is this common in Tokyo and where did you get your inspiration from?
It’s quite common for most teen/college age girls to wear similar styles of clothes. My style is definitely original because I dress according to my mood. One day I’m in a pink cotton candy looking fluffy coat and the next it’s torn fishnets with a vintage rock tee. I have definitely gone through all sorts of styles, from rainbow hair mermaid to goth queen but I’ve finally settled on a signature look and style. I call it “Goth Couture”. (YOU HEARD IT HEAR FIRST!) As for inspiration, things in a magazine or a single person honestly don’t inspire me. I suppose my inspiration when I get dressed every day is “What does Maya want to express to the world today?”.
Have you always been confident in your body?
Yes! I may not have ass but I got my big fucking tits and I absolutely love them! Haha! Now of course that doesn’t define where I get my confidence from, but now at 20 I feel confident in this body and wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s. As a teenager I did do my fair share of complaining about my body but I realized what a waste of time that is. The important part is treating your body right, feeling healthy and remembering we are all individuals that come in different heights, shapes and sizes, so embrace your unique, sexy self babes!!!
Do you have website online I can see all your pics?
↓♡♡♡ GO CHECK IT OUT BBZ ♡♡♡↓
What is your perception on true love?
CHEESEBURGERS!!! Haha no, in all seriousness I do believe in true love. It’s not just about the butterflies in your stomach and love songs, for me true love is being able to speak with no filter, swallow your pride even when it feels impossible and to unashamedly be yourself and still be loved.