True Love in Pictures- Claire & Matt, Bohemian Love in Dumbo Brooklyn

by Naima Sanowar

in Living,New York,Style

Post image for True Love in Pictures- Claire & Matt, Bohemian Love in Dumbo Brooklyn

I was so inspired by Tiffany’s ” True Love in Pictures “ campaign, I wanted to replicate this for my blog. A peek into a couple’s love story, a glimpse into their lives for a day, with my camera, taking snap-shots of their  romance. Claire Unabia, model, actress, philanthropist, producer, wife , mother and recently a dear friend of mine – graciously accepted my request to feature her and her Husband , Matthew James, artist and sculptor whose works have been exhibited around the world…. in my very own ” True Love in Pictures,” photo essay. They met in Hawaii as kids and below after my photo-diary, you can read their magical Love Story.

This would be my very first photo essay. I am not a professional photographer and although  it was a bit intimidating taking photographs of a renowned model, I quickly got past all the doubts and threw myself into this mini project. I am always looking for ways to feature the beauty of Brooklyn, it took me  some time to choose a neighborhood that would reflect the bohemian, passionate romance of Claire and Matt. It was a toss up between Williamsburg and Dumbo . I chose Dumbo because of it’s beautiful cobble stone streets, breath-taking New York City skyline , the beautiful glass encased Jane’s Carousel , Chocolatier Jaques Torres and  independent bookstore P.S Bookshop. Do I dare make that comparison again? – Is Brooklyn the new Paris ? It surely felt that way to me shooting in Dumbo this past Sunday.

It was a chilly, sunny Sunday and Claire looked ravishing , wearing a white frilly long dress ( her hubby Matt made a point to let me now, he choose that dress the day she bought it) , layered with a worn buttered cropped leather jacket, a vintage beaver fur shawl and a beautiful hat , she bought at a flea market in Paris. Matt accompanied her with his own taste of blue jeans, a sweater, wool coat and topped off  with a fun  hat. They looked so gorgeous and I had the best time capturing their playful and whimsical moments.

I hope you enjoy Claire and Matt’s  True Love in Pictures. I tried my best to do them justice. They are truly  an inspirational couple and their love story that follows …  is perfect for a Valentine’s Day post on The Adventurista


Claire & Matt’s Love Story

Matt and I first met in fourth grade summer school: Math Class at Punahou School.  The same alma matter as Barack.  I had a huge crush on him.  He was so cool with his long hair and rebel rocker look.  He brought to class a fake thumb that he made and touched my hand as he passed it to me.  My whole body burned at the touch.  I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, “Oh my gosh, how can this hot guy like me?”  I was a scrawny, freckly, awkward girl with no style, it didn’t seem possible.  We sat next to each other and I thought it was love.  I wrote “Matt James” on the edges of my diary repeatedly in changing colors across two pages.

I did not go to Punahou but my brother did so I did not see him til a couple years later, except the time he walked by and I hid in the car.  I saw Matt sitting under a tree with my friend.  It was hard to tell the tan surfer boy was the same Matt but I was sure.  I said hi and asked him if he remembered me from math class.  He said “Uh, I don’t know.”  I was a little crushed.  Another year later we passed each other in the parking lot of Kahala Mall.  Our eyes locked and he would not look away.  I ran away blushing with my friends.  A little bit after in 8th grade he asked my friend for my number.  I was with same friends when she asked me and they said he was an Asshole so I said no.  The next time I saw him was in highschool at my best friend’s party.  I was so excited to see him.  I asked him if he remembered me from summer school, he said no.  The conversation died there and he didn’t seem interested in talking to me.  I concluded my friend was right he was a cocky Punahou guy with lots of other girls going for him.  I didn’t really think about him again.

We both went off to college on the mainland.  Until one summer back in Hawai’i I was invited to a friend Nick’s BBQ and lo and behold Matt was there.  I wasted no time to ask him, “Hey I’m Claire, do you remember me from 4th grade summer school?”  Finally he said, “Yes.”  He continued to tell me he was an artist and I was absolutely sold.  As far as I was concerned there was no one else at the BBQ.  We moved the party down to the beach and suddenly he disappeared.  I found him sitting in a car talking to another girl.  I was pissed.  They came back out, she was a visiting friend of my good friend.  I told everybody that I was leaving, I wanted to go swimming.  Matt said he wanted to go too and our little group of friends all went down to the shore.  It was nighttime at a beach with gnarly shorebreak, but we all stripped to our undies and went for a dip.  We decided to go to another beach with calm waters at the Kahala Mandarin Hotel.  We parked in the hotel and swam out to a raft in the ocean, flipping off and diving.  The Mandarin is a fancy hotel with dolphins and lots of security.  They quickly came and told us to beat it.  Still determined to go swimming we went to another beach.  This time we stripped completely naked and swam out.  The other girl was there and Matt was holding onto her.  That left me with my friends brother who was trying to touch me and I felt like screaming.

Eventually, we swam back to the beach.  All of the guy’s clothes were gone!  They ran out to the car with coconuts over their junk just as a cop car pulled up.  I don’t remember what the cops said, they probably just took pictures, laughed and drove away.  Luckily I have three brothers so I had extra guys clothes in the car.  Clean? Probably not.  We went back to my friends house to crash.  I was sleeping out in the living room on a couch and Matt was on the other couch.

We were laying there for awhile watching TV and I noticed he was just staring at me.  I asked him, “Are you okay?”  He said, ” I’m hungry.”  I responded, “Okay you want to go get something to eat?”  We went to Zippy’s down the road, then he realized the guys took his wallet at the beach with his clothes.  So I bought him an orange bang and saimin.  On the drive back to the house we talked and suddenly he leaned in to kiss me.  I bolted back, “Im not gonna kiss you, you were just with that other girl, what do you think I am?”  I told him I liked him as a friend.  However, back at the house we stayed up talking most of the night.  By the morning he had won me over.  He whispered in my ear.  I let him hold me and kiss me on the cheek.

After breakfast, I took him back to the beach to look for his clothes.  Amazingly we found everything of his and he bought me new slippers which were still missing.  We went to Cockroach cove where the scene “From Here to Eternity” was filmed of lovers tossing in the waves.  To escape the tourists we swam out to the rock cliffs and walked down to where the waves were crashing.  The perfect spot opened up to us: a little pool with a rock wall surrounding it.  It was like sitting in a big oyster while the waves dramatically burst onto the rocks soaking us from time to time.  It was majestic and amazing staring out into the expanse of ocean.  Up to this point I had refused to let him kiss me but the moment finally overwhelmed me and I gave in.  Our first kiss as a wave drenched us isolated by natural beauty was pure cinematic magic.

For the rest of the trip we spent all of our time together.  He extended his trip to stay with me, I met his sister naked one morning at his parents house, and we had more magical, spiritual adventures that made our love seem inevitable.  Matt returned to San Francisco, I to NYC and we dated one long year long distance until he moved to NYC.

Now I know that he really didn’t remember me from summer school but at least he finally figured out to lie!  It was a rough road but that is how you turn an elementary school crush into ten years of being together, marriage and having the best little girl in the world.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Gayletrini February 7, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Love this types of love story. The meant to be ones :D

JULIA February 7, 2012 at 1:33 PM

Great Pics Naima…I loved the feeling of fun and closeness on the merry go round

naima sanowar February 7, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Thanks Ladies, it was such a pleasure shooting this beautiful couple.

Natacha February 7, 2012 at 3:37 PM

what a beautiful and inspiring story! You’re photography is gorgeous!!!!!

Naima Sanowar February 7, 2012 at 8:26 PM

Thanks so much Natacha, a truly inspiring love story.


claire unabia February 7, 2012 at 8:53 PM

Love it! It was so much fun! The pics are beautiful!!

Naima Sanowar February 7, 2012 at 9:01 PM

Thanks Claire and Matt for being so special. I am so happy you like the photos I took of both of you. xoxo

Naima Sanowar February 11, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Thanks for the link .


yas February 11, 2012 at 8:56 PM

Woo hoo! Great job Naima and great models!

kirstin October 6, 2012 at 4:39 AM

love these, Naima!

Naima Sanowar October 6, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Thanks Kirstin, you did help me with the black and white ones. Do you remember?


Leave a Comment