The Leaping Place by Matt Shallenberger
The Leaping Place comprises several large format landscapes of the Big Island of Hawai’i.
In Polynesian mythology, departed souls exit the body through the corner of the eye and wander among the living, unseen. Guided by their aumakua, their guardian god, they search for gateways to the underworld. These portals take many forms: trees, cliffs, forest clearings, and more. They are called leina a ka ‘uhane, or leaping places.
The photographs in this series tell two ghost stories: first of my family, who immigrated to the island of Hawai’i in the 1880s from the Portuguese Azores to work sugar cane and cattle. The path of my exploration was built around their records and recollections. Second, of the Kumulipo, the ancient Hawaiian creation chant - a memorized poem of more than 2000 lines that tells the stories of the birth of plants and animals, and the arrival of people and gods. Many of the images are titled after the chapters of the chant, and illustrate scenes therein.
In Hawaiian mythology the borders between myth and history are permeable. Leaping places are used symbolically in the chant-poetry to bridge the gap between present and past, fact and fiction, and memory and imagination.
The Leaping Place was researched and shot between 2010 and 2018. A book of the entire series will be published later this summer, combining the color landscapes of the Big Island with black and white images of the Azores, alongside pieces of the Kumulipo and my notes.
Matt Shallenberger lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
To view more of Matt's work, please visit his website.