In Hawaiian culture, the land (‘aina) is considered a vast incarnate, living entity. Aloha ‘Aina (love of the land) continues as one of the guiding Hawaiian values. Since the colonization of Hawai‘i by Christian missionaries, her landscapes have been treated as commodities for development and tourism. Instead of being revered, the landscape became objectified and the awe-inspiring volcanic birthing of the land became a mere tourist attraction.
Transcending the objectification of the land, I offer an alternative perspective, a “birdʻs eye” view of “islandness” as a (metaphoric) microcosm. Through this lens, we encounter the islandʻs regeneration as it grows and transforms with each apocalyptic volcanic cycle. We witness the birthing of new land as nature’s profound ability to create itself. Since photographing the 61g Big Island lava field in 2017, I have been afforded the rare opportunity to document the island’s ongoing generative cycles and the complex relationship that humanity has with the land. This has resulted in a large body of aerial work viewed from a culturally sensitive and respectful perspective in scripting a new narrative in an attempt to rid the stereotypical views of the landscape. Borrowing the Hawaiian word hulihia, my intention for this body of work is to subvert and overturn (hulihia) the misconceptions of the land as an object and present it as a living entity. Life of the Land: Born of Fire is a photographic narrative that becomes an empathetic voice of advocacy for the island’s landscapes.