Great Photos By Great Shooters
Wednesday - April 01, 2009
As a member of the scribbling trades, I’m not much at visual composition. My photographs invariably blur or present subjects with plants growing out of their heads.
So I’ve given up photography - five or six times. I have five or six rusting cameras in my desk drawers to prove it. But I keep thinking I should take it up again - that it will discipline me to see the world better, to notice more.
No, the photographs in Hawaii: 50, Five Decades of Photography - A Community Album remind me that it takes professionals to get the world right: professional photographers like Warren Roll, Jack Matsumoto, Terry Luke, John Titchen, Dennis Oda, Craig Kojima, Dean Sensui, Mike Tsukamoto, Albert Yamauchi, Ken Sakamoto, Jamm Aquino, George F. Lee, Cindy Ellen Russell and Richard Walker.
All shot film for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in the 50 years since statehood, and it’s from the Star-Bulletin’s 250,000 images that A Community Album emerged.
I like that part of the title, because that’s what it is: a family album to the extent that Hawaii is, indeed, a family. And I think, at its best, Hawaii is just that.
The title page of chapter one covering the decade 1959 to 1969 carries the famous Albert Yamauchi photo of newsboy Chester Kahapea holding up copies of the Star-Bulletin, the banner headline screaming, “STATE-HOOD! House Sends Bill to Ike.”
A half century later, of course, our celebrations of statehood are more muted: a joint session of the Legislature last week and some television spots. There’ll be more to come, no doubt, but no kids waving statehood banners or folks dancing in Kalihi’s streets in celebration. The Hawaiian sovereignty movement has reminded us that overthrow, annexation and statehood are delicate subjects for some of our fellow citizens.
As I leaf through the album, I am of course drawn to the photographs of the new state’s elected officials: lei-bedecked Dan and Maggie Inouye at the Honolulu Airport, about to board a plane for Washington and the beginning of his 50-year career in the national Legislature; handsome Honolulu Mayor Neal Blaisdell helping Aunt Jennie Wilson cutting the ribbon on the newly opened trans-Koolau tunnel named for her husband, the late Mayor Johnny Wilson; U.S. Rep. Tom Gill with LBJ; Gov. John A. Burns with JFK; newly elected U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink with husband John, and candidate Frank Fasi with a mock-up of a proposed stadium for Halawa.
I took up permanent residence in Hawaii in August 1970, and the Star-Bull’s photographers got it all: an Afro-topped Bob Nash of the University of Hawaii’s Fabulous Five; a mightily bewhiskered Neil Abercrombie jogging his way through a campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1970; the Kalama Valley demonstrations against the eviction of pig farmers to make way for suburban homes; an aerial photo of Salt Lake being filled in to build a golf course; and photos of the artists who did so much to launch the Hawaiian renaissance - Gabby Pahinui, the Beamer brothers, Cecilio and Kapono, and the Makaha Sons of Niihau.
The chapter on the ‘80s begins with an underwater photo of the beautiful, talented, courageous surfer, Rell Sunn. A photo of Lehuanani Velasco directing 11th-graders at a Kamehameha School song festival speaks of the her joy and pride in Hawaiian music. City Prosecutor Charles Marsland glares out of a mid-decade photo. Two photos - one of male dancer, one of female - speak to the growth of Hilo’s Merrie Monarch Festival. And there are photos of scoundrels: Ponzi schemer Ronald Rewald and actor Tom Selleck (who played a detective with a touch of a scoundrel).
The photos from the ‘90s are almost all in color: of five Bishop Estate trustees, soon-to-be ex-trustees; of the nation’s first governor of Filipino ancestry, Ben Cayetano; of Irmgard Aluli with her guitar and the extraordinary Israel Kamakawiwoole with his; of presidential visitors - George H.W. Bush (in black-and-white) and Bill Clinton; and of a sick young man named Byran Uyesugi who took his gun to work one day and killed seven of his co-workers.
Then there’s the decade in which we live: a homeless man with heavily burdened shopping cart at the corner of Ward and Kapiolani; a fist-pumping Michele Wie after sinking a putt; a smiling young local boy and U.S. senator from Illinois named Barack Obama; the first Republican governor in 40 years, Linda Lingle, on her second inauguration day in 2006.
There’s so much more. It is, after all, a family album. I found a real family in it, Aunty Tess (in the photo, Teresita Hilario, a UH student in the running for Miss Hawaii-Filipina.) Gorgeous then; gorgeous now. Take a look at Five Decades of Photography. There’s a good chance you’ll find family as well.
(Editor’s note: The paperback edition of Hawaii: 50 is due out Monday. Priced at $25, it will be available on Starbulletin.com)
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