Finally Got To Live My Wes Anderson-Themed Photo Dream

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of photographing Betsy & Tim Hand, a Kauai-based couple who are originally from Georgia. Each year for their anniversary, they reenact the American Gothic painting with their own little twist and use a different photographer each time to help them bring the vision to life. They're such a lovely couple who were a blast to work with and I'm so happy that I was able to finally live out my Wes Anderson-themed photo dream. Here are a few images from my shoot with them: 

 

No Place Like Home (I Feel Like I'm Dorothy)

Throughout high school, I was often told that staying in Hawai'i would ruin my career as a photojournalist. Yet, each day that I've been home has been a reminder that moving back was one of the best things I could've ever done. Here, I feel like I can produce important stories in a place I genuinely care about. This island is such a big part of who I am, and without it, I don't know who I'd be. Growing up here for half of my life has truly shaped my identity and because of this, I feel an obligation to give back to the island by telling the stories of locals in a truthful, empowering manner. After attending college on the mainland for several years, I was often reminded of the wrongful misconceptions associated with Hawai'i. People would approach me with questions such as, "Do you all surf?" "Do you all dance hula?" "You're all Native Hawaiian because you're from Hawai'i, right?" and would disregard me if I corrected them. This, along with the obligation I felt to the island, inspired me to work on stories that give a better understanding of the Hawai'i that I grew up knowing. I wanted to show people that surfing and hula dancing are both beautiful aspects of our culture, but we have a vast array of other things to offer. We're a melting pot of unique, diverse cultural values, practices and subcultures and there really is no other place like my home. There's nowhere else where I can refer to everyone as auntie and uncle, eat my body weight in poke bowls, buy spam musubis at any gas station, be surrounded by the crazy people I grew up with and be with my cute lil family and watch my siblings grow. I lost so much in California and was nearly done with photojournalism/documentary work by the end of my time there, but moving home and being around these things have instilled a sense of inspiration in me that I lost a long time ago. I'm always brainstorming new ideas now and strive to become a better journalist and documentarian every day. At times, I doubt myself and wonder why I came back to a place I tried to escape. This is the first time I've tried to freelance without working a stable job/multiple different jobs since I was 16, but I feel like this is where I need to be and what I have to do. 

Millions of story ideas have been running through my head since I've moved home. After two months of research and pitch writing, I found Scarlet Honolulu's drag revues and fell in love. Prior to attending Scarlet, I struggled with my work and talking to strangers, which was something I normally loved doing, for months. Yet once I met the people of Scarlet, I felt like I could finally get back in my groove and really start taking photos again. Even as a straight woman, being around this amazing community made me feel like I could be myself again. I finally felt safe and was in complete awe of the warm, opening community and the authenticity that I found in everyone I met. The way the queens carried themselves with confidence and grace, embracing their individuality and living as themselves unapologetically, left me mesmerized. Since then, I've reached out to several queens and have been working on a photo essay about them with my writer friend, Emily Cardinali. We will follow several concepts in this essay, such as the concept of Hanai 'Ohana and the Native Hawaiian concept of Mahu, which was a empowered, sacred man who embodied both feminine and masculine qualities. (Mahu was seen as an expression of one's third self rather than a gender.) In short, the photo essay will explore what it means to uphold the lineage of a drag family, how the values of Hanai 'Ohana and the Native Hawaiian concept of Mahu reflect upon modern day drag queens and how these sacred bonds shape us into who we are. We've only just begun, but I'm so incredibly excited to be working with these amazing individuals and finally producing work about my home. Here are a few images I've shot so far: 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles Women's March

Oh hey cool, my very first blog post. I feel like a 10th grade Tumblr blogger all over again. Now all I need is my depressing teen angst back and my hipster nerd glasses and it'll be just like the good ol' days. (Just kidding let's never talk about those days again. I'm already cringing as I talk about it.) 

Now let's get to the point. 

On January 21, 2017, I attended the Los Angeles Women's March. The last protest I attended was in 2014 and only consisted of about 10 protestors in Inglewood. This march consisted of about 750,000 people. I'm still in awe over this incredible event and as cheesy as it sounds, it's something that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. Despite it being a protest, it felt like a celebration of diversity and humanity. Young children marched with their parents and grandparents. People climbed on top of bus stops and trucks and got crowds to chant together in unison. Older women came together in big groups with knitted pink hats and Rosie the Riveter shirts. People of all different shapes, sizes, colors and genders were hugging, laughing with each other, dancing together, helping one another and lifting each other up. (I tried climbing on top of a bus stop to get some photos and a few people actually lifted me up hahaha) The march became so overcrowded that different marching routes were formed, participants were stuck at metro stations from Studio City all the way up to Orange County for hours and according to the Los Angeles Times, the attendance was record breaking. (I had 6 trains pass right in front of me until I was able to get on. Shoutout to the guy behind me who pushed me and another family onto the train and made sure we didn't fall every time the doors opened. You're a true pal) 

The march showed that there's still light in the people that inhabit this world. Millions across the globe stood up for what they believed in that day, refusing to accept sexism, bigotry, homophobia, racism and hatred. I haven't seen that type of passion and kindness in so many people at once before and just the thought of it still warms my heart. It was an event that restored my faith in humanity and reminded me why I love my field so much. I've met so many incredible human beings and I've seen so many beautiful things all because of my camera. I'm so happy that I was able to photograph such a beautiful, historic day. Keep on fighting the good fight, world.