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Behind the Lens

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    On April 5, at the overlook of Kilauea caldera at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, kumu Chinky Mahoe offered hoo­kupu (a ceremonial gift), tossing it over the edge. His halau ‘O Kawai­li‘ula danced on site in preparation for the 50th annual Merrie Monarch Festival. The halau went on to sweep the competition, as the kane dominated the men’s categories, winning first place in kane kahiko, auana and overall categories. This simple picture reveals the spiritual preparation halau engage in that the public rarely sees. The offerings prepare the dancers and give them the inner drive to perform the exciting movements that audiences appreciate.
    Kakaako is where I spend most of my working hours, and twilight is one of my favorite times — right when electric lights are switched on but there’s still enough natural light to see. I took this shot of a car’s headlights on Dec. 14, highlighting the start of construction on 801 South St. condominiums, with Keola Lai condos in the background, to mark the changing of the landscape in the neighborhood. Eventually you won’t see any sky from this angle, as it’ll be blocked by residential housing. Usually there are a few people walking around, but at this moment, during the quiet evening, this scene has a feeling of urban isolation.
    Hokuao Pelligrino discussed the lack of water flowing to his family’s loi on Wai­kapu River on Maui while holding his 6-month-old daughter, Kawai­hua, on Aug. 5. The issue of water rights has been plaguing my own family in Wai­hee, Maui, for as long as I can remember. I hope that people like Pelligrino and community leaders can find a way to care for the aina so that the next generation will be able to carry on fishing and farming traditions.
    Hawaii, and certainly Waikiki, is not always a melting pot of cultures, but a collision between them. My photo of a homeless man sleeping at a perfectly manicured Princess Kaiu­lani Triangle Park on Nov. 14 illustrates that clash of socioeconomics, between the image of refinement our visitor industry projects and the less fortunate who live among us.
    One of the privileges of being a photojournalist is being a witness to history in the making. This frame meant a lot to me because I had previously photographed retired Justice Steven Lev­in­son, right, and I knew the importance of the passing of the same-sex marriage bill. I felt this shot epitomized a victory not just for Levinson, but for the two newlyweds and the gay community. Newlywed couple Renea Stewart, left, and Lisa Veneri walked under a shower of rose petals during their wedding ceremony Dec. 2 at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel.
    I was following the leaders in the final round of the 2013 Sony Open at the Wai­alae Country Club on Jan. 13 when Tim Clark’s approach shot went into the bunker on the first green. When Clark got into the bunker, it was so deep I could only see the top half of his head as he swung his club. Clark hit the ball out of the sand, and I shot this photo as he craned his neck to see over the edge of the bunker, tongue curled in his lips, watching the ball roll on the green.
    I had already spent weeks photographing federal agent Christopher Deedy in court, and was looking for a different angle in the case of the man who shot and killed Kollin Elderts during an argument in a Waikiki McDonald’s. After the expert testimony, examinations and cross-examinations, grainy surveillance video viewings and bloody shirts, Deedy testified. On Aug. 7 he plopped on his back and explained to a hushed courtroom how Elderts died in their fatal encounter. The trial ended in a mistrial.
    I was unsure about how the shoot with Leo Klink would go. The Kalani High School soccer player had led his team to win the state championship and was being photographed as the All State Soccer Player of the Year. But what made this assignment different was the story behind the win. During the State Championship game on Feb. 9, unbeknownst to Leo, his mother, Hi­royo, had a brain hemorrhage and left the stadium in an ambulance that crossed the field in front of Kalani’s bench. Her last wish in the ambulance was for no one to tell her son that she had been stricken during the game. Three days later she died. It was a story of triumph and tragedy, love and heartbreak, and a difficult one to approach photographically. When I met Klink, I was struck by how well adjusted and grounded he was. At the shoot on March 7, we started with a series of stoic portraits, then proceeded to action shots. We took a break and I showed him the images. After studying the pictures, Leo said, “Can we take one of me smiling?” I said, “Of course!” He added, “I think my mom would like that — to see me smiling.” This image was the result of our teamwork. Although it wasn’t published in the paper, I never forgot Leo’s wish.
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