Talking Story w/Kirsten Reyno of Lola Pilar Hawaii
It’s a Sunday morning and Kristen Reyno is scouring her favorite streetside market for fresh tropical fruit. She picks up a perfectly ripened guava, gives it a firm squeeze, and adds it to her collection. “It’s perfect,” she says to herself. However, Kristen’s not searching for the perfect afternoon snack, she’s creating art. Under the title Lola Pilar, Kristen, who grew up on Oahu, has used her innate creativity and talent behind the lens to craft mesmerizing displays composed of neatly arranged local fruit. The patterns, which both mimic Hawaiian style quilts and feel kaleidoscopic, are wonderfully unique and authentic to the islands. Recently, we caught up with this ultra-talented artist to discuss her creative approach to making mouth-wateringly delicious work.
Can you walk us through the process of choosing, collecting, arranging, and shooting your fruit series?
My process begins by exploring. I’ll head out to various farmers markets, shops in Chinatown, or even different farms in Waimanalo searching for the right plants to photograph. Sometimes I have specific pieces in mind, which can be challenging. At times, I’ve had to call friends of friends of friends to source the specific plant I’m looking to shoot. But I’ve also found plants that I’ve incorporated into my work while running, walking, or just being surrounded by nature. In some cases, I’ve even knocked on doors because I randomly came across a beautiful tree filled with a flower that I want to use. In one instance I was driving in my neighborhood and there were coconut tree-trimmers filling up their truck with beautiful coconut palm parts. The parts of that palm became a pair of different artworks—one of them being a limited-edition piece.
It must take a ton of time and attention to detail to organize your work.
When I collect the pieces that I’m going to use, I have to make sure the leaves and flowers are symmetrical—otherwise, it can throw off my whole piece. So I have to be very careful when picking to ensure the sizes are the same. My arrangement process is almost always a free-flowing form for the most part. Sometimes I draw them out on paper and other times I have ideas in my head. Flowers, leaves, and fruit all lay very differently on the ground than they do in nature. I could work on a flat-lay piece for more than two hours, only to realize that it just isn’t going to work and have to start over.
How would you describe your process when it comes to photographing the arrangements?
My shooting process is pretty intense. First, I lay down the colored paper that I feel is the best fit for the color scheme I am working with. If I can’t decide, I’ll use white or grey and then change the color of the background later in post-production. From there, I’ll set up my lighting and then set up my camera on a tripod that hangs out over my flat lay. Once my lighting and camera are ready, I begin placing the flowers and leaves down very delicately. From there, it’s a lot of detail work to ensure that the photo comes out just right. Take the photo, adust the leaf, check the computer, repeat. That process can sometimes go on for five hours. I’m moving up and down up and down; it’s pretty much my squat workout for the month. [Laughs.]
How did you get your inspiration for this series?
The inspiration for this collection came from 15 years of photography practice; it didn’t come over night. I began as a product photographer in California, working for a major surf company in Huntington Beach. I then decided to move back to Hawaii start my own business (Kristen Hook photography) doing weddings, family portraits, product photography and freelancing for local magazines. My Lola Pilar Hawaii project started out as a passion job and a way for me to explore my love of shooting flowers.
Where did the name Lola Pilar come from?
The name Lola Pilar came from our grandmothers. My husband John’s grandma’s name was Pilar and “Lola” means Grandma (his family hails from the Philipines). All of our grandmas were very creative and talented. One of John’s grandmas loved to paint and his grandma, Lola Pilar, was a seamstress in Los Angeles and made Aloha shirts for fun out of her shop. One of my grandmas had a love for drawing but didn’t do it professionally, my other grandma was an antique dealer and made dried flower arrangement and wreaths, and my great grandma was a seamstress for Lee Jeans and made quilts for fun.
All of this inspiration led to my first collection, “Tutu’s Garden Collection.” My second collection, which I’m still working on and have only released a handful of newer prints, is called “The Lei Collection.” Some of these newer pieces include collaborations with local lei makers.
Where do you, personally, look for inspiration?
I personally find inspiration being outdoors, surfing, exploring new areas, traveling, going to museums, concerts, being around other creative people, and meeting new people.