About the Artist

Tom Kuali'i
Tom Kuali'i

Island native, born and reared in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Having an acute interest in nature, I spent much of my earlier years drawing using different materials and techniques to express what I see. I enrolled in a number of art classes at the University of Hawaii and Hawaii Community College, one of which was photography taught by renown artist, Linus chao. It was my first introduction to the professional use of the camera. However it was not until I was deployed to Iraq that I truly discovered the fascinating world of photography.

During my tour in Iraq, I spent my "down time" looking for the beauty amid the chaos of war. Armed with a "Canon" of a different sort, I exposed grand sunsets and fluid waves of endless sand on photo paper. I stilled the movement of animals and insects unfamiliar to a Native Hawaiian. And, I encouraged and captured smiles on faces that otherwise expressed fear and sorrow. Having a lifelong fascination of fighter jets and combat helicopters, I would often take pictures of them. One particular photograph of a row of resting Apache Helicopters nestled among protective barricades on an airfield in Balad won me a grand prize in a photo contest. I was awarded a custom-built Harley Davidson upon my return to Hawaii after my tour was over. That really spiked my interest in photography and has since been intent on developing my talent and creativity.

Back in the Islands, I have become a progressively advancing professional photographer, having focused my lens on athletes of all ages on many courts and fields, including professional athletes in many sports. I have photographed aspiring models, competing hula dancers, singers and musicians, high school graduates, politicians, brides and grooms, and celebrating families and friends.

With an expanded, more acute eye for details, I have captured stunning images of nature as well. My passion is the theatre that is Kalapana; The vast playground of the Hawaiian Goddess, Pele. There I find a connection to my roots as a Hawaiian - even as a descendent of the native kings and warriors of old. Trekking over sacred, treacherous, unpaved landscape in the dark of night, lends to my dependence on a higher power. It becomes a spiritual experience that lays the backdrop for a simply spectacular production of wonder and beauty. I have been making this trek several times a week since march of 2008, capturing the magnificence of it all in my images.