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TRIBAL HEART - ISLAND LIFE - ALOHA SPIRIT
ARTIST STATEMENT / BIO
(Wet Plate Collodion Portrait by Ken Merfeld)
I have always been fascinated by the cultures of man, and have had the great fortune
of travelling the world, experiencing the kaleidoscope of colors and traditions and every day lives
of people in many different countries. As a young man, I left college and began an adventure to
independently study the many-colored threads that make up the fabric of the human
family. I gained an education that no walled institution could provide, which now shades my
approach to photography and my life in these islands I call home.
I have found that:
By exploring differences, I encourage acceptance
By exposing dichotomies, I find unity
By celebrating the unique, I embrace the whole
By honoring the tribes of man, I honor the greater Family of Man.
I have always been a lover of Nature as well, of animals and oceans and mountain forests,
choosing in adulthood to make my home away from the city, living a simpler life to the tick
of a slower clock. The camera for me, as for many photographers, has encouraged me to drop to
my knees in exploration of the natural world up close, reveling in the
magnification of a divine design, intricate and beautiful.
Yet somehow my focus always seems to return to the human face, to the stories written in
the eyes, the lines, the texture and glow of the skin, the arch of a brow. Each story
so different, some short with youth, others speaking volumes with age, and all sharing chapters
in the greater human book. And so I attempt to record these stories, these fleeting glimpses of
unguarded moments, by taking candid portraits on the street or in the country, wherever I go.
Living in Hawai'i for more than half my life has been a special journey of its own, and I am
honored and humbled to partake of the immense beauty of the land and its people on a daily
basis. I feel that it is my privilege and my obligation to share with the world the rich and
endangered culture of these islands, and so my personal project, Island Preservations, which
began as a scientific process of preserving indigenous flowers, has grown into a photographic
journey to preserve the Tribal Heart, Island Life, and Aloha Spirit that is Hawai'i.
I hesitate to call myself a photographer, for I have spent as many years without a
camera in my hand as I have with, choosing for long stretches to experience life and travel
without the filter of a glass lens, only putting pen to paper at day's end in an attempt
to record my journey and verbally focus the myriad mental images.
Having little formal education in the visual arts, I tend to have taken the longer road of
learning by trial and error, with the aid of helpful friends and good books. But I will confess
that from a very early age, from my very first camera, I have always felt this form of
communication in my bones, and have found no other creative outlet that has come quite as
naturally to me. Even words, my other love, tend to need effort, revision, and more effort
in order to be strung together effectively, whereas that click of the shutter, when
the feeling is right, transmitting from eye to instrument to papered reality, is truly
a magical transformation, wordless and essential to me.
And so, at this step in the journey of my life, when there are more years behind me than
those that lie ahead, I feel an even greater need to merge these two loves, putting
camera to eye and pen to paper, in hopes of creating some sort of offspring, some sort of
concrete expression of my vision, that may one day inspire another to embrace the
world and each fellow being, with acceptance and respect, honor and love.
And if the words should fail to form, then perhaps the imagery will remain,
and for that I am thankful.
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