CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jack Titchen holds up a Rolleiflex, the kind of camera he used in the 1960s, when he shot a series of memorable photographs of Duke Kahanamoku.
Capturing the moment
Jack Titchen’s images of Duke Kananamoku took the measure of the man
Sometimes memorable pictures are taken by sheer luck. Professional photographers believe in luck. But they also believe in being prepared.Back in 1967 the Honolulu Star-Bulletin was updating its files of photographs of local celebrities, and photographer Jack Titchen drew those starting with the letter K.
Jack Titchen's historic photographs of Duke Kahanamoku are featured in the new "Portfolio," a display space for the art of photography, featuring images by Star-Bulletin photographers as well as other contributors. See below.
"Boy, there are a lot of K's in Hawaii," he recalled. "One of those was Duke Kahanamoku, however, and that promised to be fun. I contacted Sports Illustrated to see if they were interested in a recent picture of Duke, too, and they were, but they wanted him swimming at Waikiki, by the Natatorium."
Titchen contacted Kahanamoku, who said sure, come on by. Titchen brought a couple of Rolleiflex two-and-a-quarter view cameras, convinced he'd be shooting right at sea level. The Rollis made it possible to get the camera down low.
He was right. Kahanamoku dived into the Pacific, and Titchen walked out on the reef, balancing two cameras, one loaded with color film.
Kahanamoku, 76, played in the water "like a big kid having the time of his life," Titchen said. "He'd stick his foot out of the water, play with his hair, splash people swimming nearby." For Titchen, who emigrated from Down Under, Kahanamoku demonstrated the Australian crawl.
At one point, Titchen asked him to gaze skyward -- "Look up at the hotels!" -- and Titchen snapped the classic portrait of Kahanamoku, athletic and glistening with Hawaiian pride. For years it became the "mug shot" of Kahanamoku used with Star-Bulletin stories.
Another remarkable image was Kahanamoku standing with his arms spread wide. "No wonder he was such a great swimmer," marveled Titchen. "His hands and feet were the size of canoe paddles!"
This image has even been pirated without permission by other publications.
These memorable pictures, taken during a brief moment in the life of Duke Kahanamoku, were recently on exhibit at Duke's in Waikiki to mark the Olympic swimmer's career. He died less than a year after the images were captured.
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In 1967, Duke Kahanamoku warmly obliged Star-Bulletin photographer Jack Titchen with a photo shoot in the Duke's natural habitat. The ocean images on this page, taken at the Waikiki Natatorium, are among the most familiar photographs of Hawaii's famed waterman.
COURTESY OF JACK TITCHEN
Duke Kahanamoku works on an Australian surf ski at the old Outrigger Canoe Club.