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The Iconic Career of 1960s Fashion Photographer Alma McGoldrick

This photographer lives a life of interesting contradictions.


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Photo: Alma McGoldrick

McGoldrick shot commercially into the ’90s and still dabbles in photography with a photo club, but it’s now one of her many interests. Like many photographers, she prefers being behind the lens. “I’d rather go out snorkeling,” she replies, when the photographer assigned to shoot her portrait looks around for a good backdrop; she’s quick to volunteer to stand in the foliage fronting her house for the shot.


For McGoldrick, photography provided interesting work that helped pay the bills. But even at the height of her fame, she admits, there was a gnawing fear. “I was so petrified,” she says, “because you’re only as good as your last photo.” And she remains self-deprecating about her work: “I mostly had a formula—backlit with a reflector.”


While McGoldrick, 87, still speaks with the British accent of her hometown, she’s fully immersed in the Islands. She’s been an avid hiker for years, although, these days, she’s doing more snorkeling. She’s candid, busy and vitally interested in current events. “I’m an environmentalist and very concerned about global warming,” she says.


She lives in an airy Kailua home that reflects her globetrotting adventures (Nepal, Italy, Ireland, Austria and more) and her eclectic taste in art. “I love masks,” she says.  But she’s also keeping up with the lives of her now far-flung family: two children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren living across the ocean.


One of her two daughters learned macramé in the 1970s and got her mother interested in jewelry making. To fill the gaps between photo shoots, McGoldrick combined her love of hiking in Hawai‘i forests with her eye for beauty and began to make jewelry, not from macrame, but out of fungus she found on her hikes. She’s still making the “tree shell” jewelry and selling it statewide. And she’s busy. “I love theater, I love dance, I love art,” she says, but not sports. “I’d rather do something than watch it.”




Through decades of shooting people and the Islands, McGoldrick chronicled the changing times.


May 1967

This cover features a 19-year-old flight attendant named Nellwyne Lum. McGoldrick: “That was a bit daring for HONOLULU, a bit boob-y.”







July 1967

This couple’s matching Tori Richard outfits, a bright blazer and a bikini, landed them on the cover and McGoldrick profiled in the same issue.







May 1968

McGoldrick’s cover captures a dewy green scene, but the issue also included a piece on an emerging counterculture.







February 1969

McGoldrick captured this model striking a pose on an O R & L train in what was described as a spring coat from Andrade’s.







November 1970

This “bonnet of flowers” was the idea of model Danielle Poe; she helped fashion it from backyard blossoms. McGoldrick likes the simplicity of the creation more than later interpretations.






September 1971

This issue noted that Hawai‘i taxes climbed to the second-highest in the nation, but used a fashion cover story to highlight ready-to-use pattern books for women ready to sew their own.









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