Hawaii-based lensman John Hook is hesitant to call himself a surf photographer. “When it comes down to it,” he says, “surf photography is, like, zero percent of my income. But it’s 100 percent of what I love doing.”
In this showcase, explore the natural and cultural beauty that, for Hook, continues to thrive on Oahu. Swim out at Pipeline where he meticulously times each frame, preserving the limited amount of exposures when shooting film, working his magic inside the box. Perch on the balconies of Waikiki’s mid-century hotels and snipe glimpses of the enduring beachboy culture and blow-in trappings alike. Watch the Funtographer in action, hear the stories behind some of his favorite photographs, and sink into the night for a quiet slide under Town’s lights.
[Captions by the photographer.]
A short film focused on the how, where, and why the Hawaiian lensman plies his trade.
The Palms of Queens
Lots of my film photos stem from curiosity, luck, and camera tricks. Using the double exposure effect is one of my favorite ways to spice up a photo—like this one of Arthur “Toots” Anchinges at Queens, layered with palm fronds.
The tide pool at Pipe provides an interesting dynamic. There’s 0-year-old kids playing and floating around, while just on the other side of the berm is the deadliest wave in the world.
I rarely shoot waves from land, but I really wanted a “corduroy lines” photo. So I hiked into the hills overlooking the North Shore. One outer reef wave feathered among the swells, and click—a lucky shot.
Last Look in Paradise
I enjoy trying to capture that feeling of Hawaii being the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. I try to see Oahu from the perspective of a tourist who spent all their money to come here.
Kahana Kalama, sliding one just past midnight. Waikiki’s city lights and hotels give you just enough glow that surfing can be photographed well after the sun sinks into the Pacific.
“Still, to this day, all I want to do is take pictures of my friends surfing, whether that’s 1-foot Waikiki or giant wherever.”
Country Day, Town Night
This image is the result of shooting underwater on the North Shore in the morning, then reloading that same roll of film to shoot double exposures in Waikiki at night, all within a 24 hour span.
Playing tourist in Waikiki is so fun for me. The Aston Waikiki Circle is my favorite hotel to stay at in Town. It has bad fish-themed wallpaper and the best view of Queens you’ll ever see.
After-Hours Delight at Pipeline
If Pipeline’s on, I’ll go no matter what. I just want to see it. I have to see it. There’s something weird about that place. You just want to be out there looking at it. It’s so strange, that wave’s effect.
Bring Down the Curtain
Diamonds in the sky and Zeke Lau in the mist. Every Pipeline wave these younger guys are on would be the wave of my life. They always kick-out by me and are just like, “Whatever.” It must be nice.
About the Photographer
When not in the water, Hook works as a retained senior staff photographer for Nella Media Group and has shot countless covers and articles for FLUX Hawaii magazine, Lei, and others—gorgeous portraits of interesting local people and candid moments of Hawaiian-focused culture. Hook has won awards for his work, but he takes those about as seriously as he does his driver’s license photo. “I don’t want to be the guy who’s taking it too seriously,” he says. “I want to enjoy this.” For a deeper look at his work, check out Hook’s portfolio from TSJ 30.6 here.