July 2, 2016

12th Man Project - Kahuku Football

Last school year, as a personal project, I started to document the Kahuku High School football team. I never played football, but having attended Kahuku, and living on the North Shore, I know how big it is to our community in terms of pride, tradition, and sense of community. We have more NFL players come out of this school that you can count. Our mascot, is the Rock's body double (12th image on the left). Take the football frenzy of Texas and double it, and replace all those country boys, with our country boys, who happen to mostly be Polynesian, and bigger than I am (and that's sayin something). I covered 8 of the 13 games and when I started, I had no idea they were going to go on to be undefeated. It was a great project but when the season ended, it ended up being more than just documenting the pride, tradition, or sense of community. It was all about how this juggernaut is lead by something more than the boys, it was lead by something known as the 12th man. The 12th man, is the crowd, our community, their families, friends, and loved ones. If you've ever been to a Kahuku game where they play at the Aloha Stadium, you know they FILL the stadium to the brim for high school games. When they show something live after we've scored, everything is shaking on the jumbo-tron as if there was some kind of earthquake happening. Nope, no earthquake, just everyone in the stands jumping up and down, cheering on the boys. This project never was about touchdowns, certain plays, or the act of playing football itself. I was never manned with camera to do that. This project is, and always has been about the strength of our community. Some of these boys have been dreaming to play Kahuku football since birth. Their dad's played. Their grandfather's played. And some of them their great-grandfather's played. So after the season wrapped I took the project a step further and started going into the player's homes to photograph them with their 12th man : their Ohana, their support system, the people who have made them who they are today. I love the juxtaposition of these huge burley boys on the field looking like warriors and then photos of them being the kind, loving gentle giant of sons/brothers/cousins/boyfriends they are. I was able to photograph 22 players with their 12th man and this is sampling of the shoots. We are gearing up for next season which I hope to gain permission to shoot again. It has really been a great way to get to know my community and document this time. Many of these boys have D1 scholarships to University of Utah, Snow College, BYU, Navy, University of Hawaii, Vanderbilt, Michigan, University of Arizon, Colorado State, Georgia Tech, UNLV, San Diego State, Army, Washington State, Oregon State, Cal State, Navy and I think there are even more...and many of them may go on to the NFL. But it never has been about that. I have no idea what the future holds for these boys, kind of like I had no idea that this project lead to photos like this. But I do know that the community where I live is as strong, if not stronger than the undefeated 2015 Kahuku football team. And that is something that is worth making a life-long project.


Keana Clay said...

This is a fantastic thing that you've done! Love everything about this post! You ROCK Jon!

ericrudd said...

Great job, Jon. It's fun to watch you follow your heart.