“The Maui Coast – Legacy of the King’s Highway by Daniel Sullivan” Book Review

By Zach D Roberts

Daniel SullivanDaniel Sullivan has traveled the globe in search of capturing the beauty of the human spirit through his stunning photography. In his first book, The Waking Dream, Sullivan’s images from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet and India chronicle the dichotomy of traditional and modern, young and old, surrender and struggle. Layered with essays, Sullivan also expresses his love of these rich cultures and people. When Sullivan is not out gathering images and stories from around the world, he lives on Maui, where he’s endured a blistering 220-mile hike to document Hawaii’s ancient King’s Highway, a landmark withering away with time that he hopes to immortalize with his remarkable images.

The Maui Coast

The Maui Coast – Legacy of the King’s Highway is an incredible look at a little known, but very important trail around Hawaii’s second largest island. The King’s Highway is not a road, it’s barely even a trail, marked only by the occasional blue stone. So when photographer Daniel Sullivan decided to document it, it became more than a hike, it was a journey into the history of Maui.

The King’s Highway as Sullivan describes in the excellent introduction and history is an 138 mile “artery” that connected the 12 original districts of the island. The Maui chiefs would send their runners to the highway to send “messages of war or demanding taxes of pigs and poi” but as time moved on and actual highways paved over parts of the trail and the old one was forgotten.

Combining gorgeous aerial photos with lush landscapes Sullivan captures the reason that so many people consider Hawaii a once in a lifetime trip. He’s lucky enough to live there so he can show us the insider’s view. Much of the 200 page coffee table sized book is taken up by frame worthy coastline shots that have just enough art in them to set them far apart from the usual tourist photo book. Thankfully he allows the camera to also turn around to capture the view inland, seeing everything from patches of farmland, historic churches and rainbow eucalyptus trees whose bark carries more colors than many flowers.

The Maui Coast

The Highway itself goes back and forth from playing a main focus of his photos to a distant line in some of the wider images. Another photographer may have just focused on the trail, creating a curiosity out of it and a mildly interesting tourist book to be picked up by sunburnt visitors to the island, but Sullivan thankfully does so much more with “The Maui Coast.” His addition of actually useful and informative captions with the photos and chapters, which give interesting tidbits of information that enlighten the photos, is just a bonus.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of this book. When I first received the book in the mail I expected the standard coffee table book from some gorgeous hard to get to location—having worked in Alaska and (heh) at a Barnes and Noble I’ve seen my share of them. This is not one of ‘them,’ something that only has become more and more clear every time I have picked it up.

The Maui Coast

You can purchase the book at www.themauicoast.com—I recommend doing it soon before Daniel realizes that he’s charging too little for a very high quality 200-page photo book. His website is DanielSullivanPhotography.com.

ThePhotoBrigade: What initially drew you to the story of the King’s Highway?

Daniel Sullivan: A lot of my photography involves photographing vanishing cultures. My first book Tribes of the Omo Valley revolved around photographing five tribes living along the Omo River who would soon be affected by the building of one of the worlds largest dams.

I’ve lived on Maui for 12 years now and I’ve always been fascinated with the depth and history of the Hawaiian culture.

I never was able to find the right perspective to photograph the Hawaiian culture until I was able to understand that the culture existed within the landscape. And that the landscape was a living link to the ancient culture of the Hawaiians.

There was a Hawaiian man here on Maui named Eddie Pu, who each year used to walk the King’s Highway. He was the only man I had ever heard of who knew the location of the King’s Highway. When he died, which was a year before I walked around the coast of Maui, that knowledge died with him.

I set out with my camera to find what was left of the King’s Highway.

How do you weigh documenting something like the King’s Highway and keeping it a secret so that it doesn’t get destroyed by too much tourism?

Tourism is not the enemy of preserving the King’s Highway. I believe it can be a tool to increasing understanding. The real enemy is development and neglect. There is no preservation or protection for most of the King’s Highway. Large sections have been destroyed or are being taken over by the jungle, the King’s Highway deserves the recognition and protection of a national landmark, and the Hawaiian people deserve this.


What in your eyes makes this book different than other photo books on Hawaii?

There has never been a book written on the King’s Highway. So little is known about the history of the Hawaiian people. This is the biggest most extensive book ever published on the island of Maui and the only book ever made on the King’s Highway.

You kickstarted this book to some great success, what’s your secret?

To make a successful campaign you must have a compelling story that people can relate to. My hike around Maui, my search for an ancient road on one of the largest tourist destinations in the world was that. People don’t just want pretty pictures, they want a story.

Would you use crowd fundraising for another book, in the future?

Yes. I believe crowd sourcing is a powerful tool for photographers to get their work out there and be seen. It takes the books out of the hands of publishers who often are concerned more with cutting corners and maximizing profit and puts the control solely in the hands of the artist and their vision, where it should be.

The Maui Coast

Zach Roberts

Zach Roberts is a photographer and videographer who splits his time between New York and Alaska. His work has been published in The Observer, The Guardian, The Brooklyn Paper, and BBC, as well as Gawker, Portfolio.com and GregPalast.com. He is currently the photo editor of TheMudflats.net and a regular contributor to Truthout.org.

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