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ISLAND HISTORY: Historic photographs by John Wehrheim of Kauai

Photographer, filmmaker and author John Wehrheim (b. 1947) arrived on Kaua‘i in 1969 to write and photograph “Paradise Lost,” a three-part series for the Sierra Club, that focused on the rapid and unprecedented extinction of Hawai‘i’s unique flora and fauna, as well as Hawai‘i’s increasing water pollution, traffic congestion and urban-resort sprawl.

Two years later, in 1971, John moved into an A-frame shack behind Howard Taylor’s (1929–2020) family home at Makua, Ha‘ena, and began photographing Taylor Camp, a treehouse community across Maniniholo Bay founded by Taylor, an artist-oceanographer and the brother of actress Elizabeth Taylor.

In 1975, Wehrheim became Kaua‘i Community College’s photography instructor, the same year the Kaua‘i Historical Society engaged him to create the book “The Kaua‘i Album,” a visual masterpiece that contains photos of nearly 100 historic Kaua‘i structures, some dating to the early 1800s, few of which exist today.

It was then, also, that he began to seriously document Taylor Camp, seeing it as both a refugee community and what he’s described as the “ultimate surfer-hippie fantasy.”

“I try to select subjects that tell a story,” explained Wehrheim.

“The first question I ask is ‘Will this subject be more interesting, valuable, informative in a hundred years? Two hundred years?’”

His prints have been exhibited in Asia, Europe, and America, collected by Stanford University, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Hawai‘i State Foundation for Culture and the Arts.

They include “Taylor Camp” at LA Art — the nation’s largest art exhibition.

Excerpts and reviews of his work have been published in seven languages, and his books and films are in 136 libraries around the world.

The most recent project of his wide-ranging interests explores King David Kalakaua’s hydroelectric plant, built in 1888 after he met with inventor Thomas Edison in New York.

Wehrheim photographed the powerhouse ruins hidden deep within the Nu‘uanu, O‘ahu jungle and wrote an article about it for the November-December 2021 issue of “Hana Hou,” the Hawaiian Airlines magazine.

John Wehrheim and his wife, former Kaua‘i Mayor JoAnn Yukimura, have two children: Maile and Kanani.
Source: The Garden Island

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