Editor’s Note: Learn more about HI1K, and support the project’s Kickstarter.
Mark Cunningham gives John John Florence a reassuring hug on the porch of his North Shore home as the throne transitions to a new generation. Kelly Slater wanders back to his own North Shore abode alone, dejected, after a hard loss at Pipeline. “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani pops out of a room dressed in drag and flashes a big smile. All quiet, poignant moments in surfing’s guarded North Shore community with one thing in common: Justin Jay was there. He captured a photo.
Jay, a Santa Barbara native, cut his teeth shooting photos in New York, where he spent years as a documentary photographer for rapper Sean Combs (You know…Puff Daddy). In that time, Jay distinguished himself as a world-class voyeur. He’s able to blend into high-intensity moments among icons of insulated cultures without disrupting them. Only documenting them. Which is a hell of a hard thing to do. Ever heard of the Observer Effect? It’s real. Jay manages to defy it.
This week, Justin Jay launched a Kickstarter for his new book project, HI1K: 10 Years/1000 Moments On Hawaii’s North Shore.
“It’s ten years, one thousand moments on the North Shore of Hawaii,” Justin Jay told us after a poke bowl this winter somewhere on Oahu’s Kamehameha Highway. “It originally started as a passion/editorial project, and it just grew.”
“My favorite types of photos are quiet moments captured of people that we all know that are incredibly famous,” said Jay. “We’ve seen pictures of Kelly in the barrel…I try to imagine myself as the biggest 12-year-old fan, and what would I want to see? I want to see what their closet looks like. I want to see what they ate for breakfast. I want to see what their mental preparation is before they go on stage or before they paddle out. Those quiet moments are some of my favorite images, because they’re unguarded, but they also tell so much about the individual.”
Each year, Justin Jay seamlessly slides in and out of barbecues with Kai Garcia and Kala Alexander to garages with Eddie Vedder and Kelly Slater, camera in hand. He humbly presents his subjects with prints that he took the time to get developed, shot the year prior and pulled from a box he carries with him in a backpack. He takes pride in his work, and he cares about his subjects. That kind of sincerity is disarming. It’s bold and confident in its own way. It’s vulnerable, and it wins trust.
“I’m hoping this project feels like a tribute or a yearbook for a particular point in time, for this particular decade,” says Jay. “I’m hoping that people can open this book and feel, whether they’ve ever been here or not, that they’ve been able to experience the inside, true culture of the North Shore and get to see private moments with athletes that they may or may not be familiar with. I just really want to humanize all of these amazing people that I’ve been able to come in contact with and tell their stories in a way that to some degree kind of falls through the cracks.”