Doreen Decasa - Photography

Matt Tuohy
By Matt Tuohy
Friday - January 16, 2009

Doreen Decasa - Photography

Sometimes art and creativity run through our veins - at least, that’s what photographer Doreen Decasa discovered when she found an ancient photography manual and loads of old photos in her late father’s belongings.

“My father had all this memorabilia in a trunk and basically never touched it,“she says.“No one had any idea he was into photography,but I found his hand-typed,hand-bound photography manual from the Chicago Institute of Photography that was copyrighted 1941, and a shoebox full of those little sepias from all over the place.”

She listed the famous concert theater Hollywood Bowl, ports all over the Pacific and snapshots of him and his friends as examples of images found in the box.

“My father was a lot older than my mom,” she explains, noting a 20-year difference between her parents. “So he had a life previous to her that she didn’t really care about and didn’t want to know about.”

A small camera made it into Decasa’s hands at an early age, and she took to it like a fish to water,making the artistic transfer from father to daughter complete, even though he gave her no instruction.

Decasa’s work, however, is different in contrast from her father’s, because instead of taking landscapes or portraits, she concentrates on macro-photography.

All self-taught and self-produced, her works show close-up views of plants and animals one might overlook on first glance.

“When I go hiking, I’ll end up sitting in the dirt right up to the roots of a tree,” she laughs.“I guess I’m one of those people who pays attention to the little things.”

Her photos are mostly of plant life around Hawaii - the inside of a flower, an overhead view of a tree philodendron or closeups of root structures of native plant species.

Examples of Decasa’s work, which are mostly closeups of plants and animals from around the island

Though she does sell her works, it is not to make a profit, seeing that she has a full-time job.“My thing is that I want to share it. That’s why I do it,” she says. “I’ve just gotta cover my costs,but I want it out there. I want people to see it.“Decasa also boasts her photos are untouched by Photoshop, mainly because she simply doesn’t own it.

Decasa’s work can be seen at most local product shows such the Made in Hawaii Festival and the Haleiwa Art Festival. They also can be found at The Mission House Museum Gift Shop, The Haven Salon and Day Spa and online at


Currently on display through the end of the month at the ARTS at Marks Garage are the works of photographers Susan Middleton and David Liittschwager in their show, Archipelago and Remains of a Rainbow.

The exhibition features photos of endangered and endemic species of Hawaii such as monk seals, octopus and albatross.

“There’s a very rich and beautiful native flora and fauna that exists in Hawaii that does-n’t exist, for the most part, anywhere else,“says Middleton. “In that sense,they’re really the quintessential expressions of Hawaii - they’re the most real, authentic expressions of Hawaii.”

The exhibition is actually a small sample from two books produced by the photographers with National Geographic back in 2001,which have animals from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the eight main ones.

“It draws images from a project and book called Remains of a Rainbow,“says Middleton. “I worked with collaborator David Liittschwager and we spent the better part of two years traveling with field botanists, field biologists throughout the main Hawaiian Islands documenting the flora and fauna in a portrait style.”

Many of the shots have black-and-white backgrounds,studio lighting and have all the makings of classic studio portraits, but looks can be deceiving. In fact, all of the pictures were taken on location in sweltering jungle forests, or on science vessels out to sea following the most experienced biologists and botanists as they searched for specimens.

“And of course everything we photographed was very much alive,” says Middleton, who notes none of the animals was injured, but it was hard to photograph because they were not in a studio but rather in the animal’s or plant’s environment instead,making it a challenge for lighting and backgrounds.

Middleton says she and Liittschwager documented the animals to illustrate and provide a deeper appreciation of the many plants and animals with which we share the Islands.

Examples of Middleton’s (left) and Liittschwager’s work with endangered and rare species in Hawaii

“They’re just not often seen by people, but it’s a very important marine system that was recently declared a national monument,” says Middleton about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. “So I would hope people come away from the exhibit with a sense of deeper appreciation and wonder for the beauty that Hawaii holds.”

Middleton also will be making a special appearance at The ARTS at Marks Garage at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 to talk about the gallery works and her experiences photographing Hawaii’s wildlife.

For more information on the exhibition, visit


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