Copyright Makena Gadient

I’m starting a new feature here at Photofocus – it’s called Flickr Finds. I don’t have tons of free time, but when I do have a chance I scour Flickr looking for emerging photographers who have work I admire.

My first selection for this new feature is an amazing young photographer named Makena Gadient from Maui.

What’s fun about this is that I actually met Makena several years ago when I was teaching at the Maui Photo Festival. She was fairly new at photography. She was just in high school (she is home schooled) but had a hunger for learning and art that I have seen in few people. She was attentive as a student and had a humility that I don’t find very often in young people so I remembered her.

While I was flicking through Flickr – (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and I saw some of her work. I was knocked off my chair. She’s come a very long way since the Maui Photo Festival.

Her work is brutally honest. She’s a perfect example of transparency. She shows herself in her images and she doesn’t hold back. She has a natural ability that I might have seen in a dozen people in my lifetime. She has her own style and is obviously comfortable with it. She’s not trying to be someone else. She knows the BIG secret of being successful as an artist. Being YOU is more important than being NEW!

The work she does that really touches me involves her 17-year-old sister Raven. She appears in many of Makena’s photographs, and it’s very apparent that Raven is Makena’s muse. How wonderful! Two sisters sharing time together making art. I should also say that there’s no doubt in my mind that Raven, given the right agent, could be booked as a professional print model all day long. She’s one of the most photogenic young women I’ve ever seen. She – like Makena, is simply honest. They both seem to have a great sense of themselves which is very rare for young women. I really admire them both. It takes courage to sit in front of the camera in such an open and honest fashion, and it takes courage to simply be yourself when you are behind the camera.

I have no idea where these two girls got their sense of self-confidence and honesty, but I can tell you it’s certainly made for some interesting photographs.

While not all of Makena’s work is 100# technically proficient, it doesn’t matter one bit. The images are real. They speak from the heart. Makena – who I believe is only 18, has learned something most of us don’t learn until we’re decades into our careers. She’s learned how to be herself. Her work is her own. She’s not copying anyone. I can easily see her images of her sister being compiled in a book. I’d buy it in a heartbeat. It would stand the test of time.

Explore her stream. Pay particular attention to the images of Raven. If they don’t move you, especially knowing that this is the photographer’s sister, then nothing will.

Congratulations Makena. I am a huge fan and if we ever meet again, I’m going to be coming to you for some pointers. I think you have something to share with all of us!

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