Gray Malin’s Newest Series Captures the Spirit of a Historic Hawaiian Hotel


I first went to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel four years ago. I’m attracted to that [kind of] design, but never had the chance to shoot at an historic midcentury property. The shoot was supposed to take place last April or last May and got pushed to June and then July. We ended up doing the shoot this past fall.

”Arrival at the Mauna Kea”

Gray Malin shooting in Hawaii.

Before the shoot, I knew that the Mauna Kea was built in the 1960s by Laurance S. Rockefeller. I knew broad strokes about the design, primarily the open concept. The hotel is home to so much beautiful art. It truly is museum-worthy and incredible, all outdoors, mostly Asian Pacific and also some Hawaiian cultural art, maybe Oceanic and Pacific Rim, that sort of style. Laurance wanted the property to conform to, rather than intrude upon, the natural setting. When you walk into the hotel, you can see right through, because there are no walls. You are inside but you are outside. It’s amazing how someone had a vision on an empty island and built the very first hotel and how it’s remained historically the same as his original intent.

“View From the Rockefeller House, Mauna Kea”

There’s a small cottage at the end of the beach: Laurance’s house while they built the hotel. I was instantly inspired to choose an image looking back at the hotel. It’s an ode to him and his vision—and what he saw while the hotel was being built.

“Surf’s Up, Mauna Kea”

“Tennis Match, Mauna Kea”

[The pandemic] really transformed the project from what was originally going to include people to a project based on simple vintage props, and the architecture and foundation of iconic moments in the hotel itself. I had the beach almost completely to myself. I decided to custom-design beach umbrellas with a vintage twist. Mauna Kea has a very famous orange color associated with it, which we used as a nod to the hotel. Once we decided to make the umbrellas, we completely built out a beach club. I had seen in Italy perfect beach clubs being made and the way they measure everything. Then we brought in custom orange-and-white-striped towels.

“Beach Vista, Mauna Kea”

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