Beckham and Co.


This week Hawaii was blessed with futbol…yes…futbol, football, or what Americans call soccer. I prefer futbol as it brings back warm memories of flipping through tv as a kid and landing on a Spanish network broadcasting a match taking place down south in Mexico or some other Latin nation. The passion of the announcer, taunts of the fans, the tackles, passes, headers, and the dives from the players, the long locks of hair bouncing off the shoulders of a far away star. And yes, the cries of “gooooooooooooooooooooo1!” sent shivers down my spine!

But those days pushed the curiosity into a passion and now I follow football regularly. I have been known to stay up late nights obsessed with the World Cup action and now that we have the Fox Soccer Channel, Saturday and Sunday mornings are filled with Torres and Ronaldo smoothing their way down the pitch for Liverpool and Manchester United.

You can only image the joy when I learned David Beckham would play soccer in our dumpy Aloha Stadium. Becks, along with the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Houston Dynamos, Sydney FC, and Gamba Osaka played in the Pan Pacific Championship, a two day international tournament held here in Honolulu.

As I am a terribly addicted football nut, I couldn’t help but to be excited about having someone like Beckham play here…and me being the photographer extrodinare, I couldn’t wait to work the tournament.

The Associated Press had me on for the entire Beckham week and it started with great fan fair with Becks and the Galaxy arriving at the airport. The PR guys for the MLS set up the media just outside the terminal giving us full access to Beckham arriving and getting the traditional Hawaiian flower lei.

From there the soccer circus had several community events including a kid skills camp with Becks and other playing around with the kids. So many kids got the treat of their life as they got to kick the ball around with him…it makes me wonder if any of those young soccer players really knew who Beckham is or what history he created.

I think so many Americans only think of him as Mr. Posh Spice.

The tourney itself was not something I would call amazing soccer but play was decent and games spotted with great action. As Beckham is not close to retiring from international play, his role in the MLS is interesting if not controversial. His departure from the top leagues in European football to the MLS slightly mars his image as the MLS isn’t known for their amazing players or teams. Many critics stated Beckham was done and would not make another international for England and worse, he might start seeing play as a substitute for his then club Real Madrid. As any athlete knows, youth will always replace age.

The top MLS teams might only rank in 2nd or 3rd tiers of England and Europe. Yet there are great players and some games are quiet amazing. Sadly, many feel the MLS is the retirement league for European and Latin American stars.

Beckham’s play stood quiet still at times as he was not played the ball much and when he did get his foot on the ball it was only for his specialized crosses and set pieces. Sure, that is his specialty yet his lack of full on action made me wonder if either the Galaxy is a bad team and doesn’t know how to utilize him or the organzation keeps him safe from bad form players and injury. The Galaxy wouldn’t fare well if their multi-million dollar baby was done in with a knee injury or a Eduardo-style ankle break. Brutal that injury the poor Brazillian suffered the wee start of Aresnal’s game against Birmingham.

Watching Becks through my 400mm allowed me secret access to moods, emotions, frustrations, and quirkiness. I viewed him quiet frustrated as his beautiful curved kicks sailed to strikers who in my opinion, lacked the skills of a Rooney, Owen, or Lampard. Yet his decisions to move to the MLS seems more a decision based on a new Hollywood lifestyle he and his wife embraced rather than a man willing to play at the top leagues. I do imagine that $50 million a year contract does smooth things over yet watching him play in this lower tiered tournament brings frustration to me and obviously to him. I am certain many people who watched him in the glory days probably have similar feelings.

The tournament played out well and the star of the tournament was Gamba Osaka’s Bare. His four goal game against Houston in the final hopefully put him in the minds of the European leagues. The J-league is great but what great striker wouldn’t take a chance to play in the big leagues. Hopefully Gamba will reap a big windfall if Bare is taken by another team.

As far as Galaxy’s final game, Becks was full of emotions. Many smiles and frowns along with better play from him and his team. They defeated Sydney FC 2-1 and both goals came off of Beckham assists. It was a good time by all…maybe not as good as the Manchester United games he once played but good times.

After all, sports are an evolved form of entertainment. Sure Beckham was a bit of show as screams echoed throughout the stadium anytime he touched the ball…but what fan wouldn’t scream when The Edge plays a rift, or Bono hits a high note.

Its all just fun.

Gamba Osaka won the tournament whipping the Houston Dynamos 6-1. Bare was a bear. He was great to see…pure top form.

One of the funny highlights of the end of the Galaxy games was Becks pulling off his top and strutting around the field, tattoos and all. His presence is rock star like.

I will not hold my breath for another full on pro soccer tournament but maybe this will push me to travel and shoot a game or two elsewhere.


Beach shooting

Garry Winogrand had New York. Cartier Bresson had Paris. I have Waikiki Beach.

I ran down to Waikiki even though it was raining. I figured I would see something interesting. Sure enough, I stumbled upon a view.

I am not sure what captivates me with this image. Is it the disconnection? The emptiness between these two. Her rain poncho? His attention to the waves? They didn’t seem related nor were they too happy. Rain has covered Hawaii for several days.

My psyche shot this picture. Not me. I don’t remember it. It just happens sometimes. A reaction…I pull the camera to my eye and fire a burst or two. I can’t explain it. I guess its like being someone else.

Its probably nothing. Just lighting.

The 40-Year-Old Recruit

In late August 07, the Washington Post Magazine commissioned me to shoot a documentary on Clayton Beaver, a 40-year-old Waianae resident who was joining the Army. Last year, the army raised its age limit for new recruits allowing Beaver to join. Hardship and a sense of patriotism drove Beaver to follow this path the military attractively sold. Large bonuses and increased benefits also enticed Beaver, along with many others to consider the path of the military.

I covered the Hawaii side of the story examining Beaver, his background, and his family. Another photographer met Beaver at boot camp and covered his initial training. My documentation found what I describe as “Island hardships.” Whether this term makes sense, I find it descriptive of how live in Hawaii can be so far away from the advertisements in the travel magazines and tourism boards present.

With a very high cost of living including sky rocketing real estate prices, below national average salaries don’t allow for a comfortable living. Affordable housing costs can be found in Hawaii but sadly many of these neighborhoods are plagued with socials ills and bad schools. Hawaii is a trap for many…anchoring many locals here with family, friends, and as Michael Leahy described, aloha.

So many here are trapped by large families, low pay, and sadly, drugs. What most tourist encounter on the beaches of Waikiki and Maui are fantasies that a majority of local people will never afford.

Here is the link to the Honolulu Advertiser from November 23, 2007. The story was syndicated locally and is easily accessed.

The Advertiser published the powerful story along with my photos. The other photographer could not be reached by publication.

The Washington Post Magazine link:

You have to register to see the original story and images from both myself and photographer Brett Flashnick.

Headline News

I made CNN on 22 September with my well worn Superferry image. I recall the Superferry sailing into port and feeling there was a huge hesitation as local shipping monopoly scheduled a ship to sail at roughly the same time. The superferry had to sit out in the channel for some time…almost foreboding as the Superferry has received so much gruff from the locals not only on Kauai but Maui, and the rest of the state. Seems locals just don’t want change and that suits those in power.

We do seem like a backwater…

as far as the photo goes, it was big surf on the south side of Oahu so all the surfers were out. Kakaako was full of people and this guy just so happen to jump out into the picture.

I must say that I envisioned this photo. There is much to say on thinking forward and projecting the image you are looking to capture. I am learning that a pre focused idea will and does work in most cases. I did see this surfer and boat but just couldn’t get the stars to line up. I was caught off guard as the Superferry sailed quickly into port. I was on the other side of the park and had to book to the other side. Autofocus and foresight got the image in line. A burst on the trusty ol 1D MII and voila!