Posts Tagged ‘popular culture’

David Pu’u: Film School Project

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

I get letters somewhat regularly, as do many of my colleagues, from Film and Art School students who as part of their class assignment lists need to study a Photographer or Film Maker.

I take these seriously. Since I get a fair amount of them, I decided to do a blog on the subject.

The following excerpt is one I really appreciated as it came from the daughter of someone I went to school with. I am pasting it below with some entertaining and informative links that will give anyone who possesses a moderate amount of effort and ability to self motivate, a great look at what exactly it is that I do. If one looks a little bit more closely (I am a firm believer in incentives-reward for effort) there is a treasure trove here for a young Creative mind.

The Correspondence:

I have known about you for a while because my dad and I would always look at Surfer mag and he would see your pictures. He would go…David Pu’u, I met him in 7th grade P.E. class. So I have always been a big fan of your work. I see from your website you have been doing some video things as well. I would just like to get some background info about you. For my project I need to talk about you from 3 min. So whatever info is most important.
Some questions:Where did you grow up?

Santa Barbara Ca. Here. Google can be your friend sometimes (Or the road to massive distraction if one is ADHD prone like I am)


Where did you attend college?


SBCC. I was in Pre med and transitioned to business. Never finished my 4 year degree (came close) as I was already running a  company, on the radio as a personality, and doing entertainment based projects.

When did you start photography?

When I was 12. My Dad was a map maker and Photographer in the Military. He gave me his Army issue Nikon kit, and I self taught.


What was your first job out of college?

I never had one. I worked my way through, as a Restaurant Manager and Production Manager for a packaging company.

Then transitioned into Professional Athletics as a competitive Cyclist and Professional Surfer.


When and how did you start your business?

Which one? (There are 4 right now
) I have pretty much run my own companies since I was 24. I am 57 now.


What kind of camera do you use?

Depends on what I am trying to create. My last film was shot for Nat Geo on an innovative high speed 3D system which WHOI built for me from scratch. I own a large Canon film and DSLR kit for stills and have a large high speed film kit which I built for high speed motion picture capture.

The way that this works is that I am required to know how to work on any system in existence. For example, on my first film project as a Director of Photography, the director asked me if I could shoot on a specific camera System made by Photosonics. I said yes, no problem. They hired me. I called Photosonics up and went in and they tutored me on their system. If I had needed more help, I would have hired an AC. Understand? I rocked the shoot, BTW.


How is making the transition from photo to video?

I have never been a Videographer. I am a Cinematographer. A Videographer turns on the camera and documents action. A Cinematographer uses choreographed camera moves and looks,  to facilitate telling a story.


What lies ahead in the future?

Depends on what you are asking about really. I am not being flippant. That is a really odd question for me. I would need it to be very specific.
You don’t have to answer all of these, but maybe we can talk on the phone sometime. Where are you located?

I am in Ventura, Ca. A Bio is attached. The links below might help a bit as well.


Thanks for the quick response.

No problem.
As you have probably guessed, I am not a “Surf Photographer”, though I love being one of the best in the world in that genre. I have lived a life in the water, so it is an “area of specialization” for me within the craft.
I am merely a creative who cares, and has learned how to effectively use all my skills to benefit others. If you take anything away from this, let it be that people tend to believe what they read, and since a photo is worth a thousand (s) words, we have a high level of responsibility as content authors, to be both informed and ethical, as well as highly skilled and committed.
This is why:
 We picked up one of the most powerful tools in the world in the pursuit of the implementation of change: the Camera.
Someone whose Tribe I am in is Seth Godin. Here Seth writes about something critical to the life of a Creative:  Competence Vs Possibility.
Here is a video that I created as a photo collage which I did at Stoneworks Gallery in Ventura, during a fantastic joint show with the Artist Robb Havassy, and Sculptor Michele Chapin. We have these wild creative evenings with our friends. Life is like this. Our work can be anything, but really, Art is all about the communication of emotion in any given medium(s).
So don’t forget to play! ;0)
Be an Artist and you will always have work. Be a Photographer and you will always be looking for work.
Below is a little Gallery I have hastily assembled from what was on my desktop today. Thanks for your sweet letter.
Aloha Nui Loa

Digging for Gems

Friday, July 6th, 2012


Plastic Gem

Plastic Gem

In my work, much of what I do is frequently not readily apparent.

After a recent summit meeting which I got to attend, that was held at Google, I was approached as we all got ready to leave, by a woman who represents a powerful, vital force for the Oceans. I had found myself smiling a lot, when hearing her speak. (Same Tribe apparently) A lot of resonance existed in our observations, regarding solutions to some of the Global issues which the Summit participants examined.

“C” came up to me, and with a  smile, asked: “So David, what exactly is it that you do?” I explained a little bit about my background and how I operate. She laughed. (I am involved in a lot. So is she, and was headed off to Rio for another summit)

Essentially, what my work and life are all, about is mining (digging) for gems.

gem |jem|
a precious or semiprecious stone, esp. when cut and polished or engraved.
• a person or thing considered to be outstandingly good or special in some respect : this architectural gem of a palace.
• used in names of some brilliantly colored hummingbirds, e.g., mountain gem.
verb ( gemmed, gemming) [ trans. ] [usu. as adj. ] ( gemmed) rare
decorate with or as with gems.
gemlike |-ˌlīk| adjective
ORIGIN Old English gim, from Latin gemma ‘bud, jewel’ ; influenced in Middle English by Old French gemme.

Frequently, when one comes across a precious thing, it does not have a lot of luster. It may as a result, been difficult to find, as it looked like all the rest of the environment. Gems are funny that way. They stay rare because:

A) they tend to be camouflaged and B) There really are not that many in existence when compared to the sum total of the elements in creation.

My job is to find those, maybe polish them up a bit, then give them away. Sometimes, in the case of a gem that may be an empiricle Truth, that will piss off some folks, while simultaneously making others dance in delight, who on the inside were murmuring: “I knew it. I guessed that it was hiding there, and you found it”. Those people are generally pretty happy, when I hand it to them, as my gift.

Why do I give it away? Well, because then I can get more. The supply of that truth is infinite. My consciousness is one of abundance. Why is the other group pissed off? Because if they take my gift, the Truth requires that they change. Not everyone wants change, and they will fight for that right to stay, exactly where they are.

Seth Godin writes something very beautiful today, regarding being invited to join the club of the involved, in a blog entitled “The Declining Problem of (Groucho) Marxism“.

My imaging work, engages a similar modus. I find something which I know will sparkle when I bring it in, from some watery, far flung, or secreted destination. I know where to look. I am really good at it,  and experience both enjoy and delight in the process.

What makes the image gems rare? They tend to transform the recipient in much the same manner that they did to me, when I went looking for them. But really, the process is a little different for me. I dreamed, planned, implemented, discovered, returned and developed my gem. So to me, it is a pearl of very great beauty and value. I did not create it. What happened, is that I earned the discovery.

Now the irony in this, is apparent in the process by which we give our gifts. I have become very selective about who and what I will donate mine to. I have developed a means of measuring who I support. So who gets the gems? Other givers. The reason for that should be obvious, but I will state it anyway.

It is because they are the ones who will appreciate the precious, and use it to benefit people, and our Earth.

I learned long ago to honor what I have been gifted. I do not take it for granted.

Life should be like that.

In gemstones, one can find beauty of form and light, but the value is fluid.

You will only experience true worth, in flow.

We all head down a river, to a sea of our own choosing

I want mine beautiful, and full of what and who I love.

So I opted to dig for gems.

If we are having a conversation, well then, I see you as one of those.

Here is a fantastic example of a group endeavoring to affect change, and this song on their site, is a gem. Born Again American. The site Concept was developed by Norman Lear.

My work tends to go everywhere. Magazines, books, Galleries, Museums, films, commercials, product packaging, apparel. I like that it does. There is a lot of ugliness in the world today. Beauty is a form of truth which can be transformational.

I was surprised this week to find one of my images on the home page for Bing. They had gotten it from my Commercial agent, Corbis images.

The e mails asking me about the picture, which was a wave water shot, made me smile. I answered them all. Much of my work is finally available for sale in a growing Art based retail library at Solitary Exposure, a new art based agency, run by Larry Beard.

Below is a gallery of images sent in an edit to an editor of mine today. Recent works. He gets things like this from me 4 times a year.  Toggle through them as a slide show if you like, by clicking on the first one.


A California Opus

Saturday, July 9th, 2011
Napa Orange Gold

Napa Orange Gold

Chapter 5 in the California Series.

I have not always lived in California. My Dad was going to college on the GI Bill in Milwaukee Wisconsin, at Marquette University. I had never asked him why, being from Hawaii, he chose the Mid West. He met my Mother there. That was where my two Brothers and I were born.

We were sick a lot as infants. The family pediatrician had told my parents that our Hawaiian genetics may have been to blame, as we did not tolerate the cold of  hard, Midwestern Winter very well. In fact, I ended up in the hospital. I remember the experience vividly. It was a bleak time of laying in an oxygen tent in a ward, and staring out a third floor hospital window, looking at the City, watching.

Eventually, the family moved to California where my Father explored his career as an Engineer. My parents bought a home in Whittier California.  The design of the first computer, as well as launch of the Space program, became a regular part of our household, via my Dad’s work.

In some ways, we were healthier in the warmer climate of California. However, a problem arose. I developed allergies. Those caused a lack of energy, and attendant respiratory problems. I began getting injections twice a month (one in each arm), which helped alleviate the symptoms. I still get a phantom muscle ache, when I think about those shots.

I recall days where one could not see the nearby foothills, which created the basin in which Whittier is located, such was the density of the smog prevalent in California in the 1960’s. It had been around this time that the massive citrus groves disappeared from the area, being replaced by housing tracts and strip malls. Part of a methodical, concreting over of the Los Angeles area.

I was already a swimmer at this point, having learned to bodysurf, ride foamies, and inflatable mats, at the beaches in and around Newport, Huntington, Palos Verdes and South Bay. I swam for a local AAU team. But those allergies were a persistent problem. The only time I had true respite, was when we were at the beach.

Due to my diminutive size, and sort of sickly nature, my parents decided that I needed to wait to get a surfboard. By this point, it had been a topic of discussion for a couple years. But my water activities, which included fishing and diving, kept me pretty busy.

I craved those idyllic long days at the beach. I have fond memories of ten hour days in the water,  a piece of chicken, or a few rice balls, snatched on the run, from the picnic lunch my Mom would have made, very early that morning, as she loaded up the white 1955 Chevy wagon, for the long (to me) drive to the beach. I had fallen for California.




A Day at the Beach

Friday, May 13th, 2011
California Glide

California Glide

My parents moved to California when I was four. It was at that time when I saw my first surfer gliding to shore on the South Side of the Manhatten Pier. We lived in a walk up a couple blocks from the beach. I have no idea why a four year old would retain such sharp memories. I can only assume he was getting his foundation tutored to him by the land and sea.

In the years since, I have seen a LOT of change in this State. My understanding of the place comes from a deep connection to our ocean based culture here in California, and is rooted in my genes  and experiences acquired while running and founding a plethora of businesses as well as my current career as a commercial and editorial Photographer, Writer and Film Maker.

This is the first in a series of blogs that will examine my home. California: land of the warmly toned sun rise and yes, sun set. She is struggling a bit more than other places right now. So I thought that maybe a look from my perspective may be a good thing to proffer. It is a very beautiful place.  Most of the time.

Dawn's Early Light

Dawn's Early Light

“A Day at the Beach”

Dawn Moonset and Fog

Dawn Moonset and Fog


In the late fifties and sixties, it was the allure of California Beach Culture that drew people from all over the US, to California. The promise of sun, sand, surf, freedom and a burgeoning economy, were this brilliant siren song that caused us to eventually become the 7th largest  economic entity in the world.


The State utilized the talent and passion of that large influx of people, seeking golden shores and fair weather, to build all manner of things.


People needed jobs, so they set about designing and assembling the accoutrements of what would eventually affect the popular culture of the globe.

One of those funny little projects, which was manufactured both in Oakland and Van Nuys, was the Corvair. The Euro styled little car was designed as the answer to the VW Beetle and Renault. It soon disappeared into a sort of time warped oblivion as a mainstream effort. Big block V8 muscle cars of the day, took advantage of an abundance of cheap fuel and the need to haul families around in a little bigger vehicle, and became the design direction to be followed.

Here is a great little piece on the Corvair by Jay Leno. I find people like Jay, one of the better, and more enjoyable aspects of Californian popular culture.

Here is another by Chevrolet.

California has always set trends. The Corvair was decades ahead of it’s time.

And the fashion, which has arisen as a result of surfing and our beach lifestyle, quite frankly, is stronger and more influential now than ever before.

Deep Magazine recently offered me the chance to do a swimwear shoot. The theme was up to me. My answer was to hearken back to what made our Fashion develop and endure, our State grow and flourish, and what today, still offers a laundry list of assets that continue to lure: the California Coast, a rich and beautiful Ocean, pretty girls, and lots of laughter, fun, and our own, very unique lifestyle.

A day at the beach is almost always pretty special. I bet just reading this, you will recall some of yours.

Seth Godin has this to say about being an exceptional brand. For that is what California really is: a brand.

Click on any of the images below to toggle through as a slide show.

The “Models” are all surfers. But why wouldn’t they be?

Hans Rathje, Lars Rathje, Ruby Kernkamp, Jentry Huntington, Taylor Bruynzeel, Alma Billgren

Assts: Joshua Pu’u: 1st , Angela Izzo, 2nd and 2nd camera, Dante Sigismonde 3rd

Stylist: Donna Von Hoesslin

Hair and MU: Donna Von Hoesslin, for Betty B, and  Meagan Scott  for Boyandarrows.

Car wrangler, owner, camera car operator: Keith Huot

Project Coordinator: Andres Nuno for Deep Magazine

Robb Havassy: All Access Pass

Monday, April 11th, 2011
Havassy at Sacred Craft Santa Cruz

Havassy at Sacred Craft Santa Cruz

The spacious meeting hall is filled with the hustle and bustle of the curious, the sage, and the uninitiate, there on invitations from various cognescenti in the Chinese marketing and fashion world, to view a first of it’s kind offering by a new American designer, and Surfing cultural icon, Artist Robb Havassy. The show is the unveiling of the Artist’s Lifestyle and Art based apparel line: Havassy!

The seating which wraps around the reflective stage fills, the lights go to spot, the music pumps up, and this video begins to show on the facade at the back of the runway. And in synch, Robb Havassy unleashes his take on Art and Popular Culture as his models ply the reflective runway sea that bounces the concept of surfing into the waters of Chinese Culture via fashion.

Preshow Fitting

Preshow Fitting

Sitting back in my office in Ventura California, Robb’s short and often somewhat cryptic notes, and telling photographs of the event were preceded by a question regarding Facebook in China. I e mailed him back that it was IP banned there, but I would post a few images for him from here. In the exchange of e mails that ensued, I frequently found myself smiling a bit, as I realized that the fruit of Robb’s several months intense work in Southern California designing the fashion line, were being captured in this show and communicated back to me in real time.

Head to Toe Havassy

Head to Toe Havassy

The affect was that of having been able to witness something historic. Seemingly out of nowhere, this young artist had birthed a culture based Men’s and Women’s apparel line aimed at, not his peers, but a burgeoning new market, that of the young and emerging Chinese youth, who he felt were searching for a vehicle to identify with. So Robb brought them surfing and his ocean, surf, and popular culture based art.

Hand Painted and Crafted

Hand Painted and Crafted

The emotions were palpable. The line had gone from concept in California to the runway in China, in approximately three months. That meant a LOT of creative and constructive energy being focused on a myriad amount of aspects regarding international marketing, finance, and fulfillment, in addition to the nuts and bolts of creative interpretation of Art, and implementing it into a fashion sensibility that would be both authentic, and appeal to the sensibilities of the Chinese Psyche. Big project. And as is often said the show was an overnight success.

Robb de la Sol

Robb de la Sol


But what many do not realize about the Orange County based artist, is that he has a deep background in Fashion. Robb has been in shows as a lifestyle fashion model, for some of the most well known designers in the fashion industry, and worked with the elite menagerie which accompanies that world. His close friends run major Corporations in the Action Sports based industry as well. He gets it. That is a critical understanding to have, as one moves forward in this sort of project.

Then there is the vast depth in his Art pursuits. Robb is incredibly prolific, and his art is rich with the flavor and sensuality reserved for those who ply the global waters of surfing, nature, love and life. His work exudes all of that. So does he. It is all intensely magnetic.

I met Robb in the course of contributing to Surf Story Vol 1, which is an iconic book of surf culture that has proven to define to the world, just what authenticity is in surfing. Robb simply invited everyone he knew to contribute a story or two, and some art or photography, and published it all in a book which he laid out personally and then self published as a Limited Edition. The Surf Story Project had been a success. In fact, Volume 2 is on the way and is proving to be an even more vast expression of the passion that is Surf Culture.

My last phone conversation with Robb, prior to his leaving, was regarding some significant yet unimportant aspect of the new and emerging company which would bear his name. Creating companies, especially ones which are innovative, requires the pangs of birth. Those are unavoidable. Having been involved in a  plethora of corporation building myself, it is easy for me to read the waters of new company formation.

The last of our conversation is below.

“Robb, stop worrying this. You need to relax, and as you settle in to your seat for the flight, realize that your job is to be the foking rock star Artist and icon that you are. That is what the Chinese want. You.” And we rang off.

At the end of a runway show is the finale. In the last walk, the designer comes out with their models in a final presentation to the world. The impression is always designed to be icon building in effect. Robb had glibly and unobtrusively mentioned something he had thought about doing for awhile. I had almost forgotten it. Till I saw this photo he sent. The looks on the models faces, the audience and Robb say it all to me.

Robb Havassy, rolling out his world and life: in China. Triumph.

Havassy Fashion Finale

Havassy Fashion Finale


In much the same manner as a wave, “Havassy!”, has come ashore in the original land of enchantment and innovation: China. Full Circle. I am not surprised that it took an artist to figure it out.

Fluid Emerald

Fluid Emerald






© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.