Entering into a foreign culture as a stranger with a camera can be a risky venture. The first rule is that you never assume that the local people want to be photographed. I am a believer that all people in all cultures are naturally good by nature. Still, there are plenty of reasons to follow proper protocol and act respectfully.
Hawaii is probably the most photographed state in the union, or close to it. The Hawaiian people are beautiful and photogenic. Most particularly, the iconic hula dance – the ancient dance of Hawaiian culture, is appealing to photographers from around the world. Visually alluring, sometimes romantic and seductive motions can mesmerize any person watching. That being said, hula dancers are often overwhelmed with requests to be photographed – to the point where it may become a distraction.
The proper protocol is to first approach the hula teacher (kumu hula) very respectfully to seek permission before whipping out the professional-looking camera. Offering your business card with an email address may help build some trust. Trust is everything, so don’t abuse it. Be prepared to give back with some sort of donation to the hula school that may offset their expenses. Offer prints or downloads to the teacher, parents, and dancer… and follow through on your promise.