“To pursue beauty to its lair. To respect strength, never power. To never look away.” —Arundhati Roy
“An ability to act or produce an effect.”
If you turn to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and look up the word “power,” this is the first entry listed. The next reads “possession of control, authority, or influence over others.” The most performative definition of “physical might”—the meaning that can be most easily observed in others—doesn’t appear until three entries down. I find it telling that our main understanding of power is built around recognizing that it is largely felt over seen. That, with power, we sense its potential before the actual fact.
As 2018 progressed, Hawai‘i’s natural forces made the vagaries of power that inspired this issue all the more clear and potent. Fire and water, and what these elements left in their wakes, ended up as building blocks for this issue of FLUX. In Christian Cook’s field account and film photos of the storm that shook Kaua‘i’s north shore on page 48—made all the more haunting considering the images were tainted by the torrential rains after water seeped into his camera gear—disaster allowed room for deep reflection. Lava allowed similar sentiments to surface for the writers and photojournalists who brought to life our special section on Pele that begins on page 102. Nothing is permanent, these stories reveal, no matter how solid the foundation under your feet may seem. We can climb our way to higher levels of power, yet we are also not in control. Kīlauea is still erupting, and as Cook states, “Floods will come again.”
Following my first year as an editor, I’ve been deliberating on what this role means, on what power it yields. I’ve learned there are many things required of editors beyond managing words, assigning photography, and making them stick coherently to the page. There are responsibilities that occur off paper that require an editor’s devotion, too, like fostering a creative environment and upholding spaces where we feel free to be expressive and take risks with our work. Being an editor involves analyzing structure—breaking sentences apart, bridging passages together—in a written story, but also the structural dynamics of one’s relationships with a team. I like that if you walk into our Chinatown office, you might find it hard to discern who is in charge. That there aren’t insulated, corner offices where our publisher, creative director, or editors sit in rooms separate from individuals divided by cubicles. We share desks and resources in an open floor plan where anyone can raise a thought or ask for feedback, out loud, at any time. We all have a window view.
This framework and access is essential to producing a composite of voices and perspectives every issue. The themes of FLUX reflect our interests and what is on our minds, but, more specifically, they materialize in the form of questions: What does it mean when…? What would it look like if…? How can this story be more of that or less of this, and what could that say? It’s what I’m struck by most about our team’s process, from conception to execution, and what I appreciate above all: the constant stream of consideration, of inquiry. I’m so enthralled by this issue’s cover image of Kīlauea by photographer Elyse Butler because, for me, it captures this same attitude: In its overwhelming magnitude, it forces you to look hard and make sense of what it even is.
When I discuss ideas with Lisa Yamada-Son, FLUX’s editor in chief, and we’re uncertain about whether they belong in an issue, we often return to whether or not they are in service to the publication’s mission: to show Hawai‘i as a place that is dynamic, not static; to inspire thought and conversation, not apathy; to activate prose and photography in ways that engage rather than pacify readers. To transfer whatever creative influence we’ve used into shaping a story out to the reader.
So, once you’ve finished reading a piece—seen its ultimate photo, followed it to its final word, and hopefully, been expanded on something you previously knew little about—you won’t feel it’s enough to merely be made more aware of it: You might feel empowered. You may feel “an ability to act,” even if that action is to put forth more questions. You may ask yourself, Now that I know about this, what will I do with it?
An Upstream Battle Activists residing in Wailuanui and Ke‘anae are continuing to untangle the complex politics of East Maui water diversion to reinstate this natural resource. Their efforts are part of decades-long litigation and the largest water rights case in the state.
Special Section: Pele In this section dedicated to Pele, one of Hawai‘i’s most formidable icons of strength and power, we’ve turned to a team of writers and photographers to look at the myriad layers this natural phenomenon possesses, from the visual to the spiritual.
Birth Rights More than a decade ago, Hawai‘i became the first state in the nation to give mothers the right to take home their placentas after childbirth. This has helped revitalize indigenous birthing rights and traditions and enabled holistic maternity practices on the islands.
Deconstructing Statues As modern society struggles with the postcolonial influences of the past, Hawai‘i’s statues continue to educate and interrogate their own relevance.