Massive, daunting cliffs. Huge, sweeping valleys. Epic, towering waterfalls. In 2008, Amber Crago was hiking Mauna Loa with a good friend. They had one day to do the 18 mile hike, and catch their plane that afternoon. Amber, being a photographer, wanted to stop at every corner to catch every incredible view on film; the more they walked the more and more magnificent the views became. But she couldn’t. She had to rush the hike.
Nothing is more painful for a photographer than the absolute perfect shot that they’re not allowed to capture. That, over and over again, for an entire day along with the pains of hiking non-stop in the heat, created the most beautiful hell Amber had ever experienced. She was forced to take in each spectacular scene in a second, knowing she would never be able to share it with anyone else because it was too beautiful for words.
As the day was coming to an end, the 5 foot tall, 22 year old with short, spiky hair and huge, dramatic eyes couldn’t take it any more. She picked up her feet and ran the rest of the hike for two hours straight. She ran right through the pain, and the exhaustion, the perfect shots and splendid views. She just ran, and didn’t let anything catch up to her.
Once Amber had recovered and looked back at the experience, she realized that the only way to describe it was “glorious torture.” That not only became her artistic name, but her take on life. Growing up in South Carolina, Amber had a life like one out of a dramatic memoir. Placed into a disfunctional family, she was accustomed to moving from trailer park to trailer park, being forced to sit at the back of the bus because she was the only white kid on it. “You name it, and I swear to God it’s happened to me.” She says. Dealing with severe depression, artistic expression was one of her only outlets. “There comes a point when all you can do it just laugh at it all.” Amber has come to accept that life is just glorious torture. So glorious that it’s tortuous, and so tortuous that it’s glorious. She says that life is filled with chaos and it’s our job to find the silver lining. For her, that’s where the creativity spouts; in trying to find the beauty in everything, “even the things that break your heart.”
In meeting Amber, you would never guess that she’s known anything other than rainbows and bunches of good times. Her smile is wide and her laugh booming, even her walk seems to be more of a bounce. There’s an electricity and magnetism about her that’s only accentuated by her mohawk. If she really was some kind of magnet, it wouldn’t be too surprising considering the way that things seem to manifest themselves into her life. At 23, the list of significant and crazy experiences that Amber has under her belt is seemingly endless. That’s because virtually as soon as she sets her mind to something, she somehow gets it accomplished somehow. This has left her with a resume with everything on it from stunt work to massage therapy (which she still does now.) It’s also how she became serious about photography.
Amber bought her first camera when she was 18, and has kept one by her side at all times ever since, although in the beginning she was mostly just playing around. From then to now, she has traveled around the West Coast if the mainland, taking pictures as she goes. Then, earlier this year, she met a young Japanese man who invited her to travel to Japan and photograph his father’s band. They agreed to pay for her fare, so she jumped on a plane and thought nothing of it. Only when she was walking through the streets of Osaka with the musician, did she realize the opportunity she had been given. People gawked and mobbed the man for autographs as he tried to make his way down the side walk. Eventually, Amber ended up staying in Japan to photograph the band of the highly popular Japanese singer, Ai. Upon returning to Hawaii, Amber started doing more photo shoots with her friends and displaying them on First Fridays at Ong King. Now, she’s scheduled to shoot Bridget Gray‘s next album cover. She has also got a website in the works and a band by the name of Sound Sex.
Amber has the talent of making her subjects feel comfortable, like they want to play. This probably has something to do with her ability to become best friends with anyone she meets in a matter of minutes. She captures candid moments beautifully, using her innate understanding of color and form. Ambers photos have a whimsical air to them, as she seems to create an entire new world within them. They truly capture the concept of glorious torture, portraying their contents in a new and beautiful light, no matter what they may be.
Amber will be available via her website, glorioustorture.com (eventually.) Other than that, watch out for her work at Ong King and The Hibachi in Kailua.