Hamakua is a landscape photographic series by California based Hawaiian photographer Matt Shallenberger.
For my most recent project, I’ve travelled home to Hawaii, to the part of the big island to which my family immigrated 150 years ago. Hawaii is, for millions of people, steeped in a certain myth of paradise and respite, but the reality is much more complex: invasive plants and animals, cultural, economic, and environmental tensions, and a constant influx of tourists and immigrants. In this series I’m endeavoring to create a new set of mythical images of Hawaii, rooted in the space between peoples’ preconceptions and the less conspicuous paradoxes that make the big island unique.
I’ve utilized large format not only for the evident detail that it provides, but to place the series in the context of the painterly landscapes of the western U.S. and of Hawaii. I’m hoping that by using this format, while choosing subjects that have a human element, whether immediately apparent or more subversively, that a certain level of surreality can be achieved. In this series and the others I’ve made before it, my primary interest is in landscapes that can’t be placed in time or locale. I’ve found that in the transitional spaces between the civilized and natural world, that kind of surreality is almost constant.
Text and images © Matt Shallenberger