Marie Eriel Hobro is a Filipina documentary photographer, journalist, filmmaker, and educator based on Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. She was born in Maryland (DC area) and raised between Mililani and Wahiawā in Hawaiʻi.
At the heart of Hobro’s work is her unwavering love for her home. She is particularly drawn to local stories that focus on identity, race, women of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. In doing so, she aims to dismantle the stereotypes associated with Hawaiʻi and amplify stories she yearned to see in her youth.
If you had to assign a theme to the last six months, what would it be?
Can that meme where the dog is saying “Everything is Fine” in a room full of fire be a theme? If so, I choose that.
What creative rituals do you have before or after working?
I’m not sure if I have much of a creative ritual, but I’ve established a protocol over the last few years to ensure that I’m telling stories responsibly.
Before I move forward with a story, I always ask myself if I’m the right person to do so and why I want to do it. If I feel my intentions and heart are in the right place, I continue with it and handle everything from then on with immense care and thought. If possible, I also like to take my time in getting to know people before starting. Developing and deepening these relationships are really important to me because these are often people I’m in community with.
I think it’s such a special thing for someone to entrust me with amplifying their story. I try to honor that by collaborating with them every step of the way. By doing so, it allows them to be in charge of how their story is portrayed rather than having a narrative pushed on them. I want them to be proud of their participation when they see the final product.
Coming in with preconceived ideas of what someone’s story is and how it should be told is a really Westernized, colonial approach. This line of thinking has brought so much harm to BIPOC communities. At the end of the day, the people I collaborate with are more than just stories. I care deeply about them and will always put their well-being first.
What’s something you recently revisited or rediscovered? A book, film, or forgotten recipe?
I’ve been rewatching standup clips and shows with my favorite comedians to get me through the day. Ayo Edebiri, Baron Vaughn, Marina Franklin, Josh Johnson, Patti Harrison, Jaboukie Young-White, David Gborie, Sydnee Washington, Marie Faustin, Ziwe, Hannibal Buress, Gina Yashere, Julio Torres, Nathan Fielder, Maria Bamford, John Early, Greer Barnes, and Mike Yard have really been helping me. I’ve also been rewatching Los Espookys, Barry, What We Do in the Shadows, and South Side.
Was there a time in your career when you felt discouraged? How did you get past it?
I wish I could give an inspiring answer that makes people think, “Wow! I can do anything!”, as they run off into the sunset and chase their dreams. But I’m at a point in my career where I’m incredibly burnt out.
I’ve been overworking myself since I was 16/17. I absolutely love my career and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but the endless struggle to get here makes it hard to fully soak it in. Burnout combined with severe anxiety, OCD, and depression is really tough to climb out of. Iʻm still trying to come out on the other side.
There isn’t one sole thing that gets me through lows in my career, but a big motivation for me is my immense love for my home. Everything I do is a love letter to the people of Hawai’i. Other things that get me through it are humor, teaching photography to BIPOC youth, talking story with people within my industry, working collaboratively with other creative folks, being in community with people, photographing my loved ones for fun, and figuring out how I can use storytelling to heal, grow, and learn.
Where in Hawai‘i embodies a true sense of place for you?
Wahiawā and Mililani, which is where I grew up. Central Oʻahu will always have a special place in my heart.
5 Musings of the Month
Seeing local BIPOC thrive. I believe that inspiration starts within our own communities. Seeing local BIPOC like Janet Mock, Kaliko Kauahi, and Jacob Batalon succeed brings me so much joy. It makes me feel like I can accomplish my goals and move mountains.
Looking through the work of photographers on Diversify Photo. All of them assist me at some time or another, recalling a line or a scene that helped me understand why I am doing what I am doing, why I am writing what I am writing, and ultimately, who it is I am trying to be.
Finding humor in things every day. Comedy has saved my life so many times as someone who’s easy, breezy, beautiful, mentally ill. It motivates me to keep going and helps me push through the struggles of this field. Listening to stand-up as I work even helps me focus sometimes.
Saying no to gigs that could potentially harm the local community. At the beginning of my career, I said yes to every gig regardless of what it was. After being burned so many times by publications on the continent, I’ve realized that it’s never worth it. Even when I really need the money, I always try to stand firm in my morals and say no. Doing this helps remind me of what I’m fighting against with my work.
Remembering that rest is revolutionary and putting my mental health first. I’ve gotten so used to being in survival mode and working non-stop over the last few years. I used to think that self-care and resting were luxuries, but they’re not. Doing these things are vital to functioning healthily. Even on my busiest days, doing something as simple as wearing weird rubix cube earrings, watching stupid YouTube clips, standing outside for 5 minutes instead of hiding in my room like a hermit gremlin, or rollerskating in my kitchen for 10 minutes helps. Taking even the most manini effort to recharge allows me to work more proficiently.