Maya Kibbel

Photographer, Tokyo


a harajuku girl
with heart glasses, long hair
and a look in her eyes
which speaks you’ll never read her mind

because she wouldn’t dare
to expose her soul bare
so she remains a pretty sight
in front of neon lights

her clothes give a tease
of what her heart feels
she rather be nude
than blue, on this winter afternoon

so, she plays as she waits
for the spring and the sun
when she can truly come undone


Maya Kibbel has seen her life shared between New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. At just 16, she decided to base herself in Japan and start a career in photography. Despite her young age, the societal pressure to go to college and the obstacles in, what was then, a male-dominant industry, Maya proved herself creating a unique perspective in portrait photography. While she is dreaming of traveling the world to shoot womanhood in all its form, she is also studying to become a certified health coach, just another way for her to make this world a more beautiful place to be.



Where are you from and where do you live now?

I was born in NY, moved to LA when I was 12 and moved to Tokyo a little before I turned 17.  I’ve been based in Tokyo since. ☺

You have been traveling a lot, how would describe the different ways cultures influence you?

I see the influence of the places I’ve lived and cultures I’ve been surrounded by in my photos and my personality. Being half Japanese I find myself sometimes acting more Japanese in my decision making and work ethic, but then acting more American in creative ways and having a “sky’s the limit” mindset. The biggest way cultures have influenced me though is in my mindset. Japanese culture and American culture are so dire opposite in many ways that experiencing both has really been a blessing. I take what I’ve learned from the best of both cultures and apply those mindsets and/or skills in anything from my work life to my personal life.

What is you best photography memory?

A look book I shot a couple summers ago with the crew of an awesome brand and a bunch of models (who are actually also friends) that took place for 2 days on a tiny island a couple hours from Tokyo. The island literally had one restaurant and one grocery store but was so scenic and beautiful. We stayed at this sick private skate park compound surrounded by woods and had a wild BBQ after the first night of shooting. I shot so many behind the scenes rolls too, because it was just that good of a time.

You started photography because you wanted to capture memories with friends. Is it still what drives you today?

Definitely, but I feel as though it’s beyond just capturing friends now. There are so many amazing people on this planet, from different backgrounds and cultures. I would love to learn about their lives and capture their moments too, whether it’s high fashion or raw candid style.

What do you dream for the future?

To travel the world, taking photos of incredible people in incredible places. Also, to have learned some new skills, like glassblowing and Japanese style ceramics.


Your idea of happiness?

Going on adventure shoots with friends and making experimental prints all day in the darkroom, with good music playing in the background, of course.

Your idea of misery?

A world with no cameras, film or books. (I feel like a lot of answers are going to be camera and book related.) 

If not yourself, who would you be?

A nutritionist who spends a lot of time traveling the world to learn about other cultures and cuisines. Then using what knowledge I obtain to help bring optimal health to others. 

Your heroes?

My mum and Henri Cartier-Bresson, to name a couple. 

What is your present state of mind?

Happy. (Also, hungry and thinking about what to eat for dinner.)

Bedside table books?

What I’m currently reading, the manga Kindgom, The Diet Cure by Julia Ross (I currently can’t stop reading about the power of amino acids) and a One Question a Day 5-year Journal.

What do you do if you can’t sleep at night?

I watch mukbangs. Lol.

Do you collect?

Yes. Cameras and books. 

Tea or coffee?

Tea, all the way! I have quite the collection of herbal teas for every mood, ailment, and so on.

What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

That I’d make a great lawyer when I grow up. I never really believed in imaginary things, I was quite a practical as a child.

A color?

Creamy beige.

A city?



What are your plans for this weekend?

A couple events and launch parties, yoga, a long bath, face and hair masks, cooking, reading and getting a good amount of zzz’s!

A song?

Watch – Billie Eilish

Right or left handed?

Right handed. (But wishing I were ambidextrous.)

What is the best dish you can cook?

Hmm… I honestly can cook just about anything. At home I cook traditional Japanese, fusion with American health foods or Korean. I can make Italian food and some Filipino but my personal favorite dish I make is miso-braised mackerel with seaweed miso soup and pickled veggies, (I know that is a meal, not a dish, but you can’t have one without the rest!)

What is your middle name?

Kiyoko. (My mum’s name.)

What do you do in your free time?

If the weather is nice, I like to go for walks, hikes or somewhere scenic. If not, I’ll catch a movie or go to a museum. And if I’m being a homebody, which I’ve been majority of this winter lol, I watch good ole Japanese TV or read.

What inspires you?

The vast amount of people my age not only dreaming big but also achieving those dreams and beyond.  

What do you do for money?

Photography and Instagram PR. 

What do you do for pleasure?

Take photos. ☺ Also, cooking a nutritious and yummy meal for loved ones. As well as indulging in some self-care, such as a bath with a mix of Epsom salt and essential oil or full 11-step skins care routine.

Alaia ManleyComment