Sergio Goes / Sergio Goes, who died last summer at the age of 43, was one of Honolulu’s brightest lights. His work as a photographer, which appeared in these and many other pages, helped us to see ourselves as we are, and his remarkable gift for teaching, his spirit of adventure and his quick eye for the possible inspired many to be more.
And while those who love and miss Goes are quick to point out that he was much more than a photographer, there’s a time and place to remember that he really was one hell of a photographer.
This week, family, colleagues, students and friends celebrate the photography of Sergio Goes in an exhibition at thirtyninehotel titled Stranger Than Paradise, drawn from Goes’ series of the same name, which ran in Honolulu Weekly for 48 weeks in 2003–04. The exhibition also features a second series of works, called Paradise Found, displaying the work of Goes’ photography students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Pacific New Media Center.
Trisha Lagaso Goldberg curated both shows.
“When Sergio died, we were in the middle of a conversation about planning his exhibition [of student work]. Obviously, it never happened.” Lagaso Goldberg says that much of the energy behind the current exhibition came from his students. “They approached Andrea [Torres, Goes’ former wife and mother of their son Gabriel] to do something. They wanted to honor their teacher, and they’d never had that chance. So in part it’s a celebration that the family wanted to do, and it’s also giving his students an opportunity for closure.”
Lagaso Goldberg says the results surprised her.
“I’ve curated a lot of student shows, and of course the work tends to be uneven. Eye, technique, expertise all vary widely. In this case, that wasn’t true at all–the students overall are exemplary of the quality of Goes’ teaching. I picked works that really showed Sergio’s eye. He had a real knock for capturing people, and these photographers really took that on. A sunrise over Kaneohe, a still life of the Ala Wai–I searched for images where I felt like I could hear Sergio speaking to his students through the photographs.”
Goes’ Stranger Than Paradise work appears in chronological order, against Lagaso Goldberg’s general instincts. “It’s a little dusty and traditional to hang work in sequential order, because it’s generally irrelevant. But Sergio worked very hard to select just the right image for every given week. In that sense, he curated Stranger Than Paradise himself, so in this case it was really important that we put them in the order in which he had curated them.”
Gelareh Khoie, owner of thirtyninehotel and a longtime friend of Goes, says she was struck by seeing the series outside a newspaper. “I had seen these images before,” Khoie says “but in a very different context, against a ton of other information. I didn’t realize how powerful the work was.”
“It’s all about Hawaii, the nooks and crannies and little moments,” Khoie says. “It’s the work of a true artist who loved the people and the ‘aina and every little thing that took place.”