Pick up a local Hawai‘i magazine at a newsstand or a coffee table book in a Waikīkī hotel and chances are you’ll see a gorgeous photo by O‘ahu’s renowned and always-smiling John Hook. Whether treading water behind a camera in the surf lineup at the treacherous Banzai Pipeline or hopping a flight to shoot with another creative on a neighboring island, John Hook’s presence in Hawai‘i’s photo community is ubiquitous—and with Hook’s personality, always a laugh. We caught up with the man himself to pick his brain about shooting with friends across the islands.
What do you love most about hopping over to a Neighbor Island?
I think that there’s a big misconception about people in Hawai‘i getting “island fever,” or feeling like they’re stuck on a rock. It’s so easy to get off the island and see another one, and all of the islands are so different. On Neighbor Islands you have volcanoes, you have crystal clear water, you have places you can go to see the stars, you have places you can go in the jungle, and all within 400 miles. It’s just so easy to pack a day bag and hop over, and somehow it always seems like home because of friends or family on a neighbor island.
So, besides your home on O'ahu, what's one of your favorite palces on a neighbor island?
I’ve been to Maui a ton of times, but not living there still makes if feel like it’s a new island every time I go there. For me, Haleakalā is special because the first memories I have of it are of my whole family when I was five years old, just bundled up under three blankets waiting for the sun to come up. And then, 15 years ago, I proposed to my wife up there. I found out I wasn’t the first to do that [laughs], but it’s still a special place for me.
As a photographer, do you find yourself collaborating with a lot of other like-minded creatives in Hawai'i?
Yeah, I think because of the friends that I’ve had over the past 10 years, it’s like everybody is in our little creative industry. I’ll know photographers on Kaua‘i, or on Maui, the Big Island, and we’re all into the same things. No matter the island, you feel at home somehow when you go there. Our location really just helps photography, too. When you live in Hawai‘i, your home helps you with work because you already live in the most photogenic place ever.
And does that collaboration reflect in your work?
I think with the closeness of the photography community here, for me personally, it keeps me motivated to try new things or try different kinds of shots because it seems like there’s an endless supply of people here who have cool stories, which is really interesting, too. It’s a crossroads of the Pacific in a way, halfway between the West and East, so you always have really interesting people to meet and shoot.