It’s an irresistible image: a 1 year old with a full-grown mustache pasted on. What’s even more irresistible is the spirit and character of John Hook, the photographer extraordinaire behind the photo, dedicated husband and father. The subjects of Hook’s photographs are full of life. Relationships are captured in the pinnacle moments of existence; the power of the ocean is recorded in transition; the beauty in the simplicity of human beings is revealed. It is the perfect combination of the familiar and unfamiliar, inspired by surfing, contemporary punk rock music, Nintendo, time travel and good cinema. In simpler terms, John Hook loves photography and believes the best photographer is the one having the most fun.
Hook himself is decidedly contemporary. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1979, moved to New York for a year, Panama for three, Kansas for one until finally ending up in Hawai‘i for the remainder of his adolescence. Photography became a hobby of Hook’s while he was attending Pearl City High School in the mid-’90s. “My mom actually got me my first camera from one of her co-workers and some lenses from the swap meet,” he says. “It was an old film camera. I took it everywhere – to the mall, to the beach.”
[/sidebar] FLUX Senior Contributing Photographer John Hook
After graduating, Hook enrolled at Leeward Community College in television production. By the time the program was almost over, John decided it wasn’t for him and began to pursue other work. After a series of odd jobs, he got introduced to wedding photographer Dave Miyamoto and decided to pursue photography as his career.
But work did not come easy to the 20-something aspiring lensman. Living and working job to job was a struggle. “We were so broke. I remember my wife and I would be like, ‘Well you shoot with Dave two Saturdays from now, and that will be so and so bucks, then we can pay rent.’ We ended up having to go on welfare because we just didn’t have enough money to eat. I thought about looking for a nine-to-five job just so we could live, but then I thought, if we just wait it out, it will pick up. I knew we could get by if we just held tight, and before you know it, work picked up and my wife finally got to quit her job a couple years ago to take care of our 8-year-old daughter.”
On top of working alongside Dave Miyamoto, Hook shoots with L’Amour Photography and has his own freelance business. He recently got a contract with Ko Olina Resort to shoot weddings. “I’ve just been really lucky,” he says. And while luck has a lot to do with it, Hook acknowledges, “You can’t just be shitty. Someone can always give you a chance, but if you’re not good, you won’t get a call back.”
High and low influences resurface in Hook’s inspiration for his photography, where surf and punk-rock culture intermingle with commercial mainstream, yet Hook doesn’t like to limit himself to anything. “There’s not one thing I can think of that I would want to photograph every day because photography, for me, is a creative outlet that has no limits. Whatever I find interesting, whether it’d be a pile of shit or a basic portrait, I would like other people to find it interesting as well.”
Despite the financial sacrifices it took to get him where he is today, Hook does not believe in capitalizing on customers for the benefit of his bank account. He believes in honest, hard work that is appreciated. “I’ve done a few art shows in the past year and when someone likes my stuff I almost want to just give it to them, because if people start buying my work, it will start to feel like work rather than something I do for fun.”
As shown through the lens of his life, Hook has never been a settler; however, he cites this very thing as the key to a successful business. “There’s a difference between settling when it comes to your dreams, and then settling once your dreams have been reached. As a young artist, if you want to survive, you have to settle. You can’t just toot your own horn all day, and say, ‘This is what I want to do, I don’t care what you want – this is me!’ For now, my goal is to work as hard as possible, be a positive person in the community, make the best of my time, and save money to travel with my family.”