It's an honor to be part of Asian Archives' debut exhibition and more importantly part of the larger mission and community. We are an under-represented thread in the beautiful, messy, complex tapestry that is life and the world. I hope that groups such as yours help shine a spotlight on not only AAPI photographers, but all of our community members as well. We are all 'ohana (family).
When I look back on my childhood and growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, I realize how lucky I’ve been. For many years I didn’t want to be in Hawaii. I wanted to be in Los Angeles where I went to college (USC). The vibrancy of the city, art and artist everywhere, always something new and never a dull moment.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve seen the islands where I permanently reside now through a different lens. I’ve never been so thankful to be in Hawaii than during the last few years. Hawaii is a big town, small town. There are over 1 million residents, so we certainly qualify as a “big town,” but there is a “small town” mentality.
There is an inherent sense of community and ‘ohana (family) in Hawaii. Everyone knows each other, which is good and bad (haha), but the overall belief that we should work together is woven into our DNA. It’s that sense of community - by working together we can all rise up and if one is uplifted we all are.
I have so many wonderful memories thanks to my parents, Jeff and Susan Cho, and my brother David. My brother and I have been so lucky to have parents like ours. They have always loved and supported us, and loved and supported each other.
It’s tough to pick just one, but every day my mom or dad would drop us off at school then in the afternoon they’d pick us up. We’d play basketball in the backyard with my dad who would show off his Kareem Abdul-Jabbar skyhook and we’d try to not bounce the basketball into Uncle Collin’s yard. David and I would spend the afternoon on our homework then when the evening fell we would all eat dinner together. I have thousands of memories like these.
When I look back and think about all the little, simple things my parents did to create a safe and loving home, I’m in awe. My parents made it a priority to be home with us. To check on us. To love us. To make sure we knew they were there.
I have many crazy, hilarious, shocking, courageous, larger-than-life stories, but I think it’s these everyday memories that laid the foundation for who I am today. I owe so much to my parents and the way they raised me.
Listen to your intuition. Your heart knows what’s best for you. Your mind takes some time to sort through all the scenarios and repercussions, but your heart always knows.
I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was little. I loved dinosaurs, but I’m not a technical or sciency person so I don't think that wouldn’t have worked out.
My brother had the best “youthful dream.” He wanted to be a garbage man. The ones who ride on the back of the garbage truck and jump off, throw the trash in the back of the truck then jump back on. In all seriousness, I can see why that was his dream job. Being outside in the cool morning breeze, carefree, laughing and joking with your garbage truck driver friend. I’m sure it is still work, but watching them every week from our living room window they looked like they were having the best time ever.
I can’t recall a specific meal, but according to pictures and my parents I had an eating ritual. First off, I loved hats. There are so many photos of little Lisa at the table with a “hat.” I’ve worn many pots as hats, a plastic Zippy’s fried chicken bucket, I also had a small blanket with a bear head sewed onto the top that would serve as a hat.
Secondly, I threw my food more than I ate it. My mom said I tried very hard to place the tiny spoon in my tiny mouth, but I’d always miss and the food would go flying! So eventually they laid a shower curtain on the kitchen floor and placed me in my high chair right in the middle. I laughed out loud when she told me this story, and I stopped to think that it kinda sounds like what a murderer would do to ensure a quick clean up. What aren’t they telling me!? Mom keeps saying she hasn’t seen “American Psycho.” Hmmm…
My favorite meal growing up was whatever I could actually get into my mouth.
I recently turned 40 so now I enjoy telling people I’m in my 5th decade and telling younger folks to respect their elders. I’m also having fun starting sentences with “back in my day.” I’m 40 and I feel good.
One of the most important things I’m focusing on right now is spreading the word about my 3-year-long project “Ballet on Film.” The project concluded over the summer and so far it’s been very well received.
A new Honolulu exhibition is starting soon and I’m working on securing a space for a larger expanded show which will have an opening night and ballet performance.
My goal is to exhibit the project in a museum next to the art that inspires me.
A mix of self-care, good food and good people.
Hawaii. For so long I didn’t want to live here, as crazy as that sounds, now I miss it greatly when I travel. I didn’t appreciate how lucky I am to live in such a special place and enjoy the gentle weather. It’s quite nice and convenient to live in Lululemon all day.
I have a creative marketing group based in Honolulu. We work with local, domestic and international brands. Film and digital photography are one of the services we offer.
I’m half Japanese and half Korean. My mom is full Japanese and my dad is full Korean.
What’s your relationship with it?
To speak candidly, I believe I have a good relationship with my culture because both of my parents were born and raised in Hawaii. We celebrate and take part in many Japanese and Korean customs and traditions, but I’ve never felt the pressure to be anything but myself which other asian children may feel.
My brother and I didn’t grow up speaking Japanese or Korean, either of my parents do, but they instilled in us qualities from both cultures such as diligence, being respectful and a sense of team or unity.
I believe showing one another a certain level of respect is important. We do not have to agree, but there should be a base level of mutual respect.
Both the Japanese and Korean cultures are very respectful. It’s a quiet, subtle quality. One does not need to be loud to make a point.
While both cultures are beautiful and should be celebrated, a common thread that runs through both is pressure. Pressure to be what society tells you to be, pressure to make your family proud, pressure to “save face” when you don’t, pressure to be anything but yourself.
I’m so grateful to my parents for shunning these beliefs and raising my brother and I to be our authentic selves.
I’m most inspired by film and tv. Even before I started my journey into photography, my other artistic work has always been influenced by modern and classic art such as Wong Kar Kai’s In the Mood for Love (2000), Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946) and Vertigo (1958) and the HBO series Euphoria (2019).
I’m also influenced by paintings from the great masters like Vermeer, Caravaggio and Velasquez.
My first film camera and still my favorite is a Yashica 635. It holds a special place in my heart. It originally belonged to two of my photography mentors. Floyd Takeuchi was the original owner who used the camera in the 60s, then he sold it to Malcolm Mekaru who also shot with it. It’s over 50 years old and still creating beautiful work.
Art is emotion. I hope that my work resonates with the viewer on a deeper level than merely a pretty photo. I hope it elicits an emotional response, whatever that may be.
Interested in learning more about the people in this piece? Check out their member bio by clicking on their name below.
I’m a self-taught photographer based in Honolulu. I ventured into photography recently, picking up my first camera in my 30s. After a few years of shooting digitally, I watched Finding Vivian Maier and everything changed. Soon after, I acquired my first and still my favorite film camera, a 52-year-old Yashica 635.
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