The project The Jungle explores how people adapt to and connect with rapidly changing environments. These images are social landscapes, portraying the effect of humans in an environment. The photographs mix documentarian traditions of lens-based capture with appropriated images from popular culture creating a visual narrative of an urban neighborhood. Details of architectural juxtapositions that encapsulate aspects not usually associated with a romanticized Hawaiian lifestyle create a feeling of claustrophobia.
The images center on the transformation of a neighborhood in East Waikiki formerly known as “The Jungle” due to gross overcrowding and substandard living conditions. They examine the evolution of architecture and vernacular culture that occurred during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. After World War II, property values skyrocketed in Waikiki as the introduction of more affordable airline travel and the development of luxury hotels made the city a magnet to the tourist market. The Honolulu Redevelopment Agency looked to urban renewal to make Waikiki more appealing for tourism. Today one can see the uneven results of their efforts in the vestiges of the old neighborhood; the steadfast single-family residential structures that remain among the patchwork of unresolved vacant lots and the hotel and residential high-rises that were the dream of the Honolulu Redevelopment Agency.
Karen Elizabeth Baker – May 7, 2020