Kirsten Whatley is an award-winning author, essayist, and photographer based in Hawaii who specializes in food culture, environment, and identity. She has written for publications and journals including AFAR, Tin House, Orion, River Teeth, Honolulu Magazine, Wine & Spirits, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. For the past 17 years, Kirsten has also been director of communications for award-winning nonprofit Ma Ka Hana Ka 'Ike, a vocational training program that teaches skills of self-sustenance to at-risk Native Hawaiian youth, and shows them they have the power to change their future.
Her photojournalism and nature photography have been featured in Black and White Magazine, winning two Single Image Awards in 2017, including one People's Choice Award. She was a finalist at the 2017 SIPA (Siena International Photo Award) contest in Italy with her image of a Samburu, Kenya, warrior. Her image of a young Hawaiian hula dancer at the East Maui Taro Festival took 1st place in the 2016 Hana Festivals of Aloha Photography Competition.
Kirsten has also edited over 70 books for Hawaii publishers Island Heritage, Inner Ocean, and Bess Press on culture and counterculture. In 2008, she wrote Preserving Paradise: Opportunities in Volunteering for Hawaii's Environment (Island Heritage)—in 2009, it won a national merit award for "Best Travel Guide" from the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).
Kirsten has an incurable case of wanderlust. It has taken her from Lisbon to Ubud, Papeete to Cusco, Havana to Marrakech. She has studied flamenco in southern Spain, raced after street imagery in New Orleans, hand-pounded curry paste in the garage of a Thai chef in Chiang Mai. She is planning her next adventure as you read this.