She leaned the 11 inches across our 10 seater plane, intertwining her fingers softly within his. Picnics packed, hair in rollers and both families in tow, we all said a silent but known prayer as the chartered plane hurled it’s self into the cloudy sky. We circled our way past some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world, landing on the remote peninsula of Molokai; Kalaupapa: once an isolated leprosy settlement established in 1866 now refuge for the remaining residents and a place of roots for Damien’s family. We quickly deboard the plane and looked around in wonderment and awe. The “airport”, a tiny three-walled pavilion with several plastic chairs, greeted us, setting the tone for the true quiet and seclusion of the day. Our travel arrangements, a giant yellow school bus marked “Damien Tours”, picked us up in style as everyone said their hellos and Kimberly was first introduced to Damien’s grandmother.
When the idea of heading to Kalaupapa, a region you must either take a tour to visit or be invited into arose, I danced with glee at the idea. Sitting across from Kimberly and Damien over Starbucks the two kept me wildly entertained. Deep into our photography consultation he recalled summers spent on Molokai as a young boy where he skipped rocks across the sea, always picturing himself taking wedding photos on the beach in front of his Grandmother’s home. Being that they had not made the trip in ages, it was decided both his family and Kimmy’s would head over for the day, exploring the island, connecting their past and introducing his future: Kimberly. There we were, amongst a population of less than 120, taking it all in.
Damien, named after Saint Damien who lived in isolation with the patients of Hansen’s disease, rode along the back of the bumpy buss, sharing stories of jumping off the dock into deep blue waters with his soon-to-be-wife, each hopping at out memorable locations. As most days in Hawai’i the weather was ever changing but that didn’t take away from the incredible views and untouched landscape of such a stunning place. We road along the island, staring deep into the mountains and laughing in thankfulness we had not booked the donkey ride down from the cliffs. (That’s a thing). His family, proud to be back, and Kimmy elated to experience this soon joint piece of history.
As the 6 of us shared lunch under a pavilion waiting for the passing rain to subside, I myself couldn’t help be but met with overwhelming appreciation. These were my clients who were opening their hearts and incredible family stories with me. I was getting a true V.I.P tour of Kalaupapa. I had gotten the inside scoop on stories (like how the barge from Honolulu comes once a year with everyone’s new goodies!) straight from the people who had lived it. I’d had the chance to share in this piece of history alongside them. I just flew on a tiny weight-distributed plane that I maybeeeeee fudged a few pounds on the paperwork for and lived to tell the tale! This was a GREAT freaking day.
At 2:45pm, on the way to catch our 3pm flight, we stopped at Damien’s family’s beach house. Kimmy took his hand and under his careful instruction skipped a series of smooth, flat rocks across the crystal blue sea.
This was, by far, one of THE coolest and most adventurous days I have had as a photographer. I literally kept stopping and thinking “wow, we are DOING this. What a DAY!”. Damien, thank you so much for the idea, for arranging it all and trusting me with your family heritage. And Kimberly, for being so sweet, gorgeous, and fun and bringing such fab outfits girlfriend. I know the weather was temperamental but it was nothing short of extraordinary. I dream of going back to this untouched land! Ya’ll are the bomb.com.