Early Works

JACK SEMURA
Honolulu Christmas, 1950's


 

This blurry photograph was made with my first camera, an Argus rangefinder. I was leaning out of the rear window of our car at night while Dad slowly drove the family around Honolulu to see the new Christmas lights. I can see Dad's elbow in the front window.

I remember being thrilled by the newness of the decorations, the pure beauty of color, and the bond of family. At the same time, I was puzzled about feeling a sense of disconnect. The life I lived in Hawaii had no reference point for red sleigh bells, snow, or leaves that changed color in the fall. At that young age I might not have had the words, but somehow I could still sense that a different cultural worldview was growing.

Looking back years later, I see many things. I see a blurry record of a brief moment in time—a snapshot of a place and a transplanted culture that was growing toward ascendance. I see culture and history as complex and many-layered. I see that history and culture can arrive dressed brightly in colored lights using profit, mythology, and family love to persuade us. I still find myself strongly drawn to photographing lights at night, and I'm still fascinated by the masks of culture and myth we use to frame our world.