Documents of an artist's life


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

Francis Haar's work captured what life was like in Hawaii during the second half of the 20th century.

In photographing Hawaii's many cultures, its people and places for nearly 40 years, Francis Haar accumulated some 900 sheets of negatives, each sheet bearing 6 to 8 images. The massive collection is a gold mine of historical documentation of the second half of the 20th century, as well as a priceless body of fine art photography.

Hawaii is most fortunate for the mindfulness of Haar's son, Tom, who realized the value of his father's work. The younger Haar sought the help of preservation experts at the University of Hawaii, the old stomping grounds of his father, and then applied for and received grants to fund the project. Tom Haar completed the work himself, then donated the materials to the university.

Thus, the collection's new home is in the Jean Charlot Collection as part of the Archive of Hawaii Artists, housed at UH's Hamilton Library. In recognition of the gift, Bron Solyom, curator of the Jean Charlot Collection, decided to exhibit a sampling of the photographer's work.

“;Francis Haar's Hawaii Years, 1960-1997”; showcases one of Haar's first projects in the isles: a profile of hula master Iolani Luahine in 1961, which centered on a film documentary commissioned by the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Images of ethnic dancers, the old Aala neighborhood and children comprise various sections of the exhibit; each collection had their origins in Haar's collaborations with UH faculty members' projects. The display is rounded out by Haar's portraits of esteemed artists such as Madge Tennent and none other than Jean Charlot, a longtime family friend.

“;Francis Haar's Hawaii Years”; runs through Dec. 31 in Hamilton's Bridge Gallery. The library's hours through the end of the year are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, except Christmas Day. If you can't make it by Dec. 31, peruse albums of Haar's work in the Jean Charlot Collection office 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Thursdays, or by appointment. Call 956-2849.