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Tom Kualii

Island native, born and reared in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Having an acute interest in nature, Tom spent much of his earlier years drawing using different materials and techniques to express what he see. Tom 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 his first introduction to the professional use of the camera. However it was not until I was deployed to Iraq that he truly discovered the fascinating world of photography.

During his tour in Iraq, he spent his "down time" looking for the beauty amid the chaos of war, exposing grand sunsets and fluid waves of endless sand on photo paper. Tom stilled the movement of animals and insects unfamiliar to a Native Hawaiian. And, he encouraged and captured smiles on faces that otherwise expressed fear and sorrow. Having a lifelong fascination of fighter jets and combat helicopters, he 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 him the grand prize in a photo contest. I was awarded a custom-built Harley Davidson upon his return to Hawaii after his tour was over. That really spiked his interest in photography and has since been intent on developing the talent and creativity.

Back in the Islands, Tom has become a progressively advancing professional photographer, having focused his lens on athletes of all ages on many courts and fields, including professional athletes in many sports. He 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, Tom have captured stunning images of nature as well. Tom's passion is the theatre that is Kalapana; The vast playground of the Hawaiian Goddess, Pele. There he finds a connection to his 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 his dependence on a higher power. It becomes a spiritual experience that lays the backdrop for a simply spectacular production of wonder and beauty. Tom has been making this trek several times a week since march of 2008, capturing the magnificence of it all in his images.

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  • Hilo, Hawaii, USA