Millions of tourists visit Hawaii every year, spending billions of dollars and crowding popular spots like Waikiki. You might think that locals love to hate the transience of tourists -- after all, like tourists everywhere, Waikiki tourists can be loud (aesthetically and audibly), oblivious, and totally unaware of their surroundings. But many Hawaii residents, including Honolulu-based street photographer Elisa Chang, see charm in these visitors. Where else, according to Chang, do you get to see truly happy people on a daily basis?
"In Waikiki," she says, "people are on vacation and, therefore, unguarded."
Chang takes portraits of Waikiki tourists with the goal of capturing the essence of these characters without making fun of them. Her Instagram feed is full of photos that are funny, warm and endearing. While orange-tanned women in bikinis lounge next to chronic selfie-takers and adults in floaties, the overall feel of her photography is positive and human rather than snarky and judgmental.
Chang says Waikiki gives her “endless variety." "It's funny," she noted. "In certain areas I feel like I see recurring characters. In one place, I regularly see little Japanese boys in goggles. In another spot, it's redheads. Other places, it's always girls taking selfies.”
Chang walks around Waikiki after finishing up her day job as a hairstylist. She only takes photos if she genuinely likes or admires something about a person. “That way, I can’t feel badly if I’m ever busted. I guess I look for something that’s weird and wonderful and very human.”