My new project, “Devotion” takes its inspiration from my newfound love and commitment to my hometown, Hawaii. The series invites the viewer to see Hawaii through my lens as I revisit memories from my youth, collaborate with the new wave of creatives, and explore the deep relationships we have with one another and our community.

When I was growing up, I was always with my friends in the water. Swaying back and forth in the waves like a dance — we swam, we surfed and we grew into young women together. In the project’s first chapter, “Girls,” I wanted to capture the strong bonds we have with each other and our connection to the sea.

I have been dreaming about this shoot since early 2020. I was working with a ballet school, Honolulu Classical Ballet, when the pandemic was declared, so I suggested we take a handful of dancers to my favorite beach in Waimanalo. Unfortunately, due to social distancing, this never materialized, but I always kept the idea alive and hoped one day it would come together.

Nearly two years later, I was finally able to bring a few dancers to the beach. We shot this during the last week of December 2022 at two beaches, one in Waimanalo and one in Kahala. Like most of my film work, I used my Yashica 635, and shot on my favorite black and white film, Kodak Tri-X 400. I adore Tri-X because it has a naturally elegant and timeless look, whose softer palette I prefer to the sharp, contrasty blacks produced by other film stocks.

Although some of the scenes were planned out, the weather was another story. On day one, we were joined by rough waves, pockets of rain and a foreboding gray cloud that filled most of the sky. We were lucky it didn’t rain more, and eventually, a patch of sunlight shone through.

Even in bad conditions, good things can emerge. One of everyone’s favorite shots from that day is when the three are hiding under a towel as it rains. I love the authentic emotion — just girls being girls. I also feel the shot of Lia dancing in the water would not be the same if the waters were calm. As her body extends and motions up the water surges with her. It’s a dynamic shot in part due to the rough waves.

The main purpose of this shoot was to immerse myself, the subjects and the viewer in the sea. I have had other shoots where I bring my Yashica into the water up to mid-thigh, but for this I knew I wanted to be as deep in the water as possible. I don’t have a water housing, not sure if one exists, but in my experience using this camera, it’s a tank. I’ve had water splash it and a bunch of ants come to say hello and run through it – still works great.

The more I grow as an artist I realize how important communicating emotions through my work is. So just as I had the subjects submerge themselves in the ocean so their hair was slicked back and they were dripping with water, I too wanted to be as immersed in the water as possible. My hope was we could bring the viewer into the sea with us. At the deepest, I was mid-chest with the camera right above the water. Although most people shoot TLR cameras from their waist, I raise it up to my eye which is especially helpful on a day like this.

Looking back, I’m very happy with what we were able to create. “Girls” is one of my favorite shoots thus far. It’s also very meaningful that the subjects – Caroline Haruki, Lia Uchida and Tiffany Nagano – appear in my debut series, “Ballet on Film,” and now in “Devotion.” I like that they tie both projects together and I’m grateful we can continue to create magic together.

If you find yourself flying on Hawaiian Airlines now through March 31st 2023 please check out their in-flight magazine Hana Hou! “Ballet on Film”, also featured here on EMULSIVE, is the cover story and has a 12-page spread.

~ Lisa

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About the author

Avatar - Lisa K Cho

Lisa K Cho

I'm a self-taught photographer based in Honolulu. Most of my film work is created with a 50-year-old camera that formerly belonged to my mentor. My work has been exhibited in Hawaii and New York. Please learn more on and on Instagram at @lisakcho

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  1. Congratulations on this photoshoot Lisa, and thanks for sharing these great pics and the story behind.
    Anyone can’t just but agree with you: the towel shot is priceless!
    I am mostly into old german folders now, I hope I get the time to share about the amazing Baldaxette I am servicing. But I now it’s a matter of time before I get myself into the Rolleiflex experience. And for sure I will love it.

  2. Really nice images and a great project. Thanks for sharing!

    FWIW, in my 35+ years of shooting B/W emulsions as a professional photographer, I have consistently found Tri-X to be among the most contrasty B/W 400 ISO film stocks of the major league emulsions. Considerably more so for instance than Ilford’s HP5… Not sure how you rated your ISO or your development process (chemicals, etc), which could of course contribute to the “soft palette” you experience when shooting with Tri-X… Just my two sense!