Hula dancer outtakes for the cover of Celebrated Life

Hula dancer outtakes for the cover of Celebrated Life

As I said in my last blog, sometimes the photographer doesn’t always get his favorite images chosen as a publication will see great differences in what is eventually chosen.  It is clearly the nature of photography…the endless battles between an editor and the artist.

Below are a few of my favorite images from the job.

hula, Hawaii, photography
Marco’s favorite images from the photo shoot with hula dancer Kayli Carr.

Pearl Harbor survivor united with twin.

USS Arizona Survivor John Anderson lost his twin brother during the Pearl Harbor attack. John is a Pearl Harbor Survivor.
USS Arizona Survivor John Anderson lost his twin brother during the Pearl Harbor attack. Copyright Marco Garcia 2011

For the better part of a decade, I’ve have the honor of creating portraits of Pearl Harbor survivors with some of the images published by The Smithsonian a few years ago.  This year marks the 75th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on the sleeping American naval fleet.  The attack pushed the Americans into a costly yet decisive Pacific war that took countless lives.

Being the son of a war father, my childhood was filled with war stories and no tale was greater than the attack on Pearl Harbor.  So when given the opportunity to meet and document the men who were there that fateful morning, I took great pride in photographing both survivors and several Japanese pilots who dropped the torpedoes that early Sunday morning.

Every year, Pearl Harbor survivors and their families would arrive in Honolulu to mark the anniversary.  I would search out where the survivors were meeting and I would set up a small photo studio consisting of a white, seamless background and meticulously light the portraits to convey the depth and history of the men who sat for my photographs.

I’ve made dozen of portraits of these men and heard many stories of war and heroism.  But the gut wrenching story of Arizona survivor John Anderson tears me apart every time I stare at his picture and recall his tale.

We only got to spend a very short time with Mr. Anderson but he told us his story of that fateful Sunday morning.  John, who was then 24-year-old in 1941, said he could still hear the bombs exploding and remembers the buzz of the Japanese bombers flying above.  He spoke of the oil fires on the water, of the men who’s burnt skin slid off their bones.  He talked of the screams, the smoke, and the carnage.  He told us of the horrors of war.

But his pained storied turned to the worse as he spoke about his lost twin brother who also was aboard on the USS Arizona that morning.  Jake Anderson was assigned to the gun’s turrets and, according to some accounts, was killed during a misfire inside the turret.  As the ship was sinking, John did not know where Jake was and desperately looked for him.  But as other sailors abandoned ship, he tried to crawl back inside the wreckage to find his brother but was forcefully dragged into a rescue barge by other sailors claiming him his brother was dead.

All of his life, John carried the heavy burden knowing his twin brother died and his remains were just below the waters inside the rusty hull of the battleship.

“I wanted to get my brother,” he lamented.

This morning before heading out to photograph the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, I did a quick search to see if any news reports had been written about John.  Sadly I read John died last year at age 98 and his ashes were being interred inside the USS Arizona at turret no. 4 today.

Tears fell onto my keyboard as remembered his war-scarred face painfully starring back at me through the lens.  I cried because I captured a man who’s face bore a tale of loss.  But with his death, I knew John finally would be reunited with Jake, the brother he so desperately wanted to rescue.  John’s ashes would be placed inside the turret where they said his brother had died, and John would finally be free of his life-long burden.

A few days before the 50th anniversary in 1991, John gave an interview to the National Parks Service about he and his brother’s time together aboard the USS Arizona and the surprise attack that morning.  After losing his brother, John astoundingly never held resentment towards the Japanese soldier as they “…followed the orders of their superiors and were quite capable warriors.”

I’ll never forget John’s words and his amazing stories of the attack and the love for his twin.  As I write this I tear up and can only be grateful he finally can reunite with his brother.



Tulsi Gabbard saved my wife!

Tulsi Gabbard saved my wife!

“Tulsi! You saved my wife’s life!” I declared to US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard as she arrived for our photo shoot for Du Jour Magazine via Getty Images this past July in Kailua. “I’ve heard this from several people,” she replied as she warmly hugs me in the twinkling dawn hour before our shoot. “But I really didn’t do much,” she modestly states trying to play down her role in the Black Hawk Down rescue of my wife from the grips of a deranged homeless guy.

But she did run to the defense of my wife. And I always tell that story when the subject of Tulsi pops up. I told the photo editor at Du Jour Magazine. I told the assignment editor at Getty. I’ve also told my neighbors, my friends, and the guy parked next to me at Safeway. I’m always telling that tale because it is a great story.   Tulsi Gabbard did rescued my wife!

Now of course, I’ve been known to embellish a story here and there but what fable is completely accurate? Would you want to believe that Prince Charming was slightly balding and only 5’4? We all like the taller tales as they do make us feel better.

But as my wife, Yukako, tells the story, it goes something like this:

“I was walking back home from work late in the afternoon when I saw Tulsi and a group of supporters waving campaign signs before the (Nov. 2012) elections at the corner of Nuuanu Ave. and Vineyard Blvd. As I got closer I noticed a crazy homeless man had approached the group and began screaming gibberish straight at Tulsi but she never flinched. Despite none of her supporters coming to help her, Tulsi didn’t back down, she didn’t move, and never showed fear. She kept her cool and kept on campaigning. Once I got to the corner where everyone was standing…

This is where her story line becomes more of my creative tale telling…

“…the homeless man then turned quickly towards me and before I knew it, Tulsi jumped in between us and commanded the homeless man leave us alone. He was coming straight at me and Tulsi protected me from him. I gratefully thank her and rushed home.”

And like all good stories, they quickly change as they are whispered from ear to ear. And in my case, the story was immediately transformed into a butt kicking, City Council Superwoman in a red cape rescuing a petite damsel in distress.   Did Tulsi karate kick the homeless guy? No. Did she flip him over her shoulder all the while wrestling a baseball bat from his hands? Again, no. But do you really want to hear that Tulsi did something really boring? Absolutely not and regardless of the “actual truth,” Tulsi did intervene thus protecting my wife from what might have been a terrible afternoon. And sure the truth might not be so heroic but that’s the narrative I’m sticking with…despite complaints from Yukako after she read the first draft of this story.

I’ve always been impressed with Tulsi. I’ve seen her make a difference in Honolulu’s City Council as well as turn into a star Congresswoman for Hawaii. She used to live in our building in downtown and we’d frequently see her in the elevator or lobby. Tulsi always had a smile on her face and she was always willing to listen and talk to her neighbors. Her presence was powerful and she’d often wear this red suit, quite similar to the red cape I’ve made her out to wear at times. Tulsi is a fantastic person and I’m glad I can call her a friend.

When I landed the Du Jour Magazine job, I knew we’d have no trouble capturing a great image of Tulsi for the publication.   The team at Blue River Productions did much of the groundwork and secured a beachfront home in Kailua to be used as our background for the shoot. Incidentally, the location is just a few doors down from the home President Barack Obama stays in during the Christmas holidays.

We opted to meet super early at 5am Sunday morning before the sun rose so we could take advantage of the beautiful dawn light. Tulsi had no problem meeting us that early as she scheduled a live interview with a national Sunday morning talk show that would be shown live on the East Coast that day.

Once Tulsi got dressed for the shoot, we made our way down to the beach right as the sun rose over the horizon. The dreamy warm light draped over Tulsi and wrapped around the entire scene creating a surreal scene of magical proportions. Tulsi looked perfect! The image picked for the article was our first scenario and we nailed it right at the start.

I doubt Tulsi dreads hearing my tall tale of heroism, as it is a good story. She did rescue my wife and she will continue to rescue Hawaii with her progressive and innovative policies. She is something else. I am proud to know I captured her in the perfect light as well as knowing I, no we, can count on her as a friend.

And if she ever got tired of my embellishing of her tale of rescue, I’m certain I’d know due to the feel of pavement on my face or the cracking of my bones.




Ryori no Tetsujin!!!!

Ryori no Tetsujin!!!!

Yes…THE IRON CHEF…Chef Masaharu Morimoto, the legendary Japanese chef.
Hi Luxury Magazine commissioned me to shoot their August/September cover of Chef Morimoto.  Morimoto recently opened up his signature restaurant here in Honolulu and Chef has been here for the last few weeks putting the final touches on his place.

We actually ate there the other night for the opening and the food was pretty fantastic.  Their lobster was spiced by Morimoto’s secret blend but we figured it was a blend of garam marsala, paprika, cayenne pepper and a few other spices.  The taste was a mix of Cajun and Indian.  Very neat; however, the restaurant’s piece de resistance was their foie gras chawamushi.  Chawamushi is a Japanese steamed egg custard dish, usually with a shrimp or other little goodie inside.  Morimoto’s was topped off with a delicate piece of duck.  Damn that was good.

OK enough on the food and back to the picture.

After a scout we picked a spot called China Walls, a scenic spot in Portlock on the east side of Oahu.  The TV show Lost filmed there and many surfers and young types hang out at the picturesque spot.

Morimoto proved to be a handful as he knew exactly how to pose and give the camera what it wanted.  He posed, primed, danced, sang, and laughed.  And after our production assistant Cody went out for beer, Morimoto was even in better form as Cody brought back one of his signature beers.

Tammy, my assistant for the job even had her own moment with Morimoto and he surely wasn’t shy…for that matter, neither was she.

One of the better shots of the year and the cover was fantastic.  The sun set just at the right time giving us a perfect warm glow for the sky.  Sometime you just can’t ask for more.