Namaste! Tulsi Gabbard’s Wedding

Namaste!  Tulsi Gabbard's Wedding

Back in January of this year, one of Capital Hill’s and Hawaii’s own shining star announced she was engaged and and getting married in the spring in Honolulu.  US Rep Tulsi Gabbard, the newly elected maverick who regularly bucks her own party standing strong for what she believes in, was breaking hearts from the Ala Wai to the Potomac but her mystery man swept her off her surfboard and into his arms.

Some of you have read I’ve photographed Tulsi a few times for the news and once for a big New York magazine.  Tulsi also saved my wife from a pack of zombies…no…uh…well… it wolves…I mean, mmmmmmm, well, I forget the original story as the narrative changes from time to time but she did stand between a potential danger and my wife as she walked home from work one day.  Tulsi used to live in our downtown Honolulu condo and I would regularly accost her in the elevator getting a captive audience to complain about fire station sirens, homeless, and whatever took my fancy at the time but she never shied away and listened intently to my quagmire of complains and moans.

Years later after she became a member of Congress, Tulsi would go out of her way to say “Hi” to me at political or news events so it was nice to know I could count on her as a friend.  She’s a genuine person but it was quite surprising to me when I got an email from her asking if I would shoot her wedding.  Flattered as I was, I almost said no knowing this wasn’t my line of work but realized how important a wedding is to most people, I honorably took on the challenge and became her official photographer.

Knowing I could not do it alone, I needed to bring along a hired gun and I had several choices at hand but picked Hugh Gentry to be my second hand man.  Hugh’s TV news and wire service background were just what I needed as the wedding would be quick and furious.  As the wedding drew interest from around the globe, Tulsi needed us to get the images out to the media immediately after the wedding.  I knew Hugh was up to the task.

Tulsi and her finance Abe were married in a beautiful Vedic wedding ceremony full of pageantry and color.  The scene was a mix of Hawaii meets Hindu spiritualism with Tulsi dressed in an Indian style sari adorned with layers of tropical flower leis.  The wedding was held in a secluded location on the east side of Oahu near an ancient Hawaiian fish pond.  National, state, and local politicians were in attendance along with a few Hollywood and local big names.  There was also a few international VIP in attendance.  It was quite the crowd.

I documented the wedding from the beginning to the end with Hugh filling in the holes which i was not able to cover.  I had full access to her and got to see her smiles, hear her laughter, and capture her tears.  Her family was warm and embracing and tolerated my camera poking into every private moment.

In the end, the images turned out beautiful with images making the New York Times, People Magazine, and the local news.  We created great images and documented a very special night.


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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.




Another Photo EtC

Another Photo EtC

The APEC Summit has come and gone.  To me, and to probably loads of other photographers, APEC was just Another Photo, EtC…

What a pain!  3AM call times so Secret Service could sweep you and your gear, the suspicious stares from foreign security guards, the endless traffic congestion due to heighten security and dignitaries’ motorcades, the endless waiting for someone to make an appearance.  It just goes on and on.

Yet, I’ve gotten to photograph the three most powerful men in the world…Medvedev, Obama, and Hu Jintao.  No to mention Hillary Clinton, just about every APEC nation’s leaders landing at the airport.  I was no further than a very short stone’s throw from two of the most powerful men whose mere presence can shake the course of history.  Do I exaggerate?  Anyone who holds the US debt plus possibly the EU’s?  No.  I don’t exaggerate.

Yet, its all just Another Photo, EtC.  Really.  Images to catalog, to burn on a disc, and to file away. After its all over, all you have left is the lingering rush and adrenaline still pumping from the job.

The Associated Press was happy as I got a “Thanks for the good work” email from Tom Stathis…and that means a lot.  I got to be a part of something important although I was just on the outside.

Here are a few of the selects from the APEC hell week.

Above you see Mr. Obama through the bullet proof glass of his pimped out Caddy.  As he drove up to the tarmac and I spotted him in the rear seat, I couldn’t help to be struck by the fact that he’s the US President.

The toughest part of the week was being stuck on arrival duty and having to be cleared to enter Joint Base Pearl Harbor/Hickam at 4am on Friday and 3am on Saturday.  Those days were tough yet I got to see the smiling Dimitry Medvedev exiting his crappy Russian state plane.  The Sultan of Brunei had the BIG PIMPIN’ 747 ride that was just as big as Air Force One, or so it seems.  Hu Jintao was rumored to hit Honolulu’s Chinatown but since I live a few blocks away, I would have probably been alerted to the super security that would have surrounded the Chinese presidents’ present, no?  He, Medvedev and and Obama had full on security detail meaning they could shut down the city when they rolled.  I saw no such action in Ctown the week they were here.

One rumor I read was the Russian delegation demanded the bars at the Modern Waikiki (hotel) remain open 24 hours a day.  Stoli on the rocks at any time, no?

The Hu Jintao photo op was mired in constant “meiyou meiyou” and suspicious glares.  The Chinese security forces around the President clearly were doing their job but seemed awfully unorganized and never believed anything the American handlers would tell them.  Constant badgering, criticism, and attitude.  Constant confrontation and getting into people’s faces.  Not aggressive like Westerners but like Chinese…a mildly aggressive badgering.  Bad haircuts and bad suits.  At the end, we were hosed by the State Run media which got the better pictures and we got sidelined for cheaper and faster images.  And when I say State Run, I refer to China, not our government media complex.

Speaking of bad suits,  we had a run in with Russian security.  As we were waiting in media line to enter Hickam for the arrivals on Friday, three guys in cheap suits got in line with us and tried to enter the base.  They drove a black US sedan (which you knew stunk of Russian cigarettes and vodka and probably had a dissident tied and bloodied in the trunk) and got out of the car eyeing all of us suspiciously while sauntering over to the military police to get onto base. Medvedev was arriving and they had a job to do.  They were young and didn’t look all the menacing but you knew if you screwed with them, you’d end up in the trunk with that dissident.  I looked for bloody knuckles and blood smears on their jackets to no avail.  The Cold War lives on.

Security was insane…but who can blame them.  Imagine the fool who could get close enough to knock off a world leader.  Their names would line the history books!  I remember when I worked as an assistant and being left alone in a studio with Bill Gates for like 15 minutes.  Boy did my mind drift to those c stands in the corner and how I could use it as a bat. We all know who assassinated Lincoln, Lennon, Kennedy, and Reagan, no?*  Gates?  Well, it didn’t happen.  Your kid won’t learn about me in the history books and they’ll still have to deal with Windows crashing.

*Booth, Chapman, Oswald, Hinckley.

And for my last image, all I have to say is the 60’s live on.  Most of those protesters, God bless ’em, who demonstrated in anti-APEC protests across town and in the country do have a point.  Banks, politicians, media, etc…are in need for reform.  I myself can’t help but to wonder how members of Congress are able to dance around insider trading laws, how millionaires like Michael Fat Boy Moore and P Diddy can hob nob with the protesters, and how the Democrats claim to support the peoples when they are the 1%.  Obama didn’t fund raise at Disney’s Aluani with the homeless out living on the Waianae Coast.  He charged $1000 per head and pix with the Commander in Chief were $5000.  I wish AP paid me what those donors paid for a simple snap with Barack.  I’d be big pimpin’ with da Sultan in no time.

Again, back to the pits…the harry hippies of yesteryear haven’t disappeared.  Their indelible stain on society protrudes on our lovely siren holding a most important bed sheet while splashing around Waikiki’s warm waters.  Yet might it be the marketing and the romance of the hippie culture which sells the image of revolution?  No doubt the younger generations have copycatted the protest movements, clothing, music and chants of those stinking masses of yesteryear.  The chants of “Hey Hey Ho Ho (add your chic cause here) has got to go!” are no different than those chanted by those who spit on my uniformed father when he returned from ‘Nam.  The attraction of free love and free living along with being free of all society’s constraints is just too great.   And to think those sandal wearing pot smokers went on to sell their wares in the capitalists markets.  Now you can find hippie attire and culture all neatly packaged at Urban Outfitters or other such chain stores.  And lets not skimp on the irony that its made by our comrades in China.

The scarfed, tent dwelling, cardboard waving  sandalnista is no more than a carbon copy of old grainy film stock images of 60’s hippies.  Except they use the the 1%ers Twitter, Facebook and web devices to carry on the message.

The message is correct to some degree but 1969 has come and gone.  Vote them out I say.  We elected the hope and change and got nothing.  Vote them out.  That vote weighs more than some scrawled message on an old cardboard box.  But if we are not careful, we might not even have a vote.  Then we’re gonna need to do something much more than occupying a city park and smoking dope.