Steering clear of pre-fab assumptions disseminated by the tourist industry, I turn my camera to the relationship between the people who inhabit O'ahu and the sacred landscape that connects them.
Located nearly 3,000 miles from the closest continent, the islands of Hawaii operate with their own distinct set of cultural and social norms. The consciousness of land and sea is fundamental to contemporary culture on Oahu. Using my camera, I focus on understanding Hawaii’s cultural landscape in relationship to its shared land. Cultural identity, wealth distribution and social mobility of Hawaii's residents frequently contrasts with its idyllic backdrop. My objective is to explore the significance of place to race and ethnic diversity and to demonstrate how place continues to be an undeniable focal point in the identity processes of social groups today.
Hawaiians believe that land is collective property and cannot be owned by any one person or corporate interest. The value of land is measured not only by the lives, memories, achievements and “mana” (spiritual power) that have inhabited it throughout its history, but also by its ability to sustain life via natural resources. Hence, there is a real sense of responsibility and obligation to steward and care for the life-sustaining resources that only the land and sea can provide. Additionally, Hawaiian creation theory suggests that man is a direct descendant, or rather, a younger sibling of the land itself and so that sense of responsibility to steward and care for land is also akin to caring for a cherished family elder or ancestor. There is a strong belief that all land is sacred to one degree or another. With the insertion of Western law, government involvement, organized religion and both private and foreign ownership of Hawaiian lands, what seems to be left is a loss of indigenous control over land and natural resources, resulting in the displacement of Native Hawaiians in their own homeland.
With a population that is over 70% non-white, Hawaii’s diversity is the result of decades of social, economic, and political upheaval. Today’s population is highly intermarried and nomadic, practices that endanger Hawaii’s native language and customs. Documenting the spiritual nature of the landscape is critical to keeping its culture alive. I’m interested in making images that articulate a type of poetic and visual logic that the viewer can only experience through a camera’s unique ability to communicate visually.