Hawaii-based photographer Marco Garcia usually shoots hospitality and travel photography, that was until Sports Illustrated editor Erick Rasco, reached out to him. Looking for a photographer to cover the high school Kahuku High’s football training camp, Erick felt Marco was the man for the job.
Despite the small community, the Kahuku Red Raiders football program has produced many college and NFL players. Not to mention, the high school has also withstood the Hawaii state championship for many years. Since Kahuku is not a wealthy town, many kids see football as a way to escape and as an opportunity to be successful outside of the island of Aloha.
Marco was hired to capture the intensity of the training camp as well as the camaraderie of the teammates as they experienced what is referred to as “hell week.” Additionally, Marco highlighted the importance of the coaches and their relationship with the kids. The coaches are highly valued in the community as many of them are volunteers from the surrounding towns.
The first day of Kahuku’s training camp shocked me as I saw young kids, many of them who towered over me in height and carried much more weight than me, crash into each other like waves onto the shore. The intensity was amazing! Coaches screamed and hollered, kids sucked up the pain, and they practiced like their lives depended on it.
On the first day of camp, Marco was faced with the challenge of sleeping in his car. After hours, upon hours of different activities and training, the day did not commence until close to midnight. Knowing that he had to return at dawn the next morning, and Kahuku being over an hour drive from Marco’s home in Honolulu, he decided stretching out in his car for the night was the best option. Despite this obstacle, Marco witnessed and shot many amazing moments that were educational to him. The camp was not just about football and training. The ethnicity of the community is mostly Polynesian, with many of the players being Samoan, Tongan, and Hawaiian. During the camp, a Polynesian cultural practitioner showed up to teach the kids proper ways to do the haka, a Polynesian war dance.
I was astounded to learn the dance wasn’t just about intimidating your opponent but how it relates to family, community, and society. The kids learned an ethic on how to treat each other, women, elders, and those who are weaker.
This assignment has been very rewarding and informative for Marco. The reactions to the images could not have been better. This job was about football, but Marco took away a deep understanding of Polynesian culture in Hawaii. The project also allowed Marco to display his diverse photography skills, not just as a sports and fitness photographer, but also his ability to get inside and capture the unusual.
See more of Marco at marcogarciaphotography.com!