Ocean Film Fest 2010 - Bryant Austin Creates World's First Life-Sized High Res Photos Of Whales


Image via Bryant Austin

Bryant Austin is a photographer with a big goal: to save whales by photographing them. But it's not just photographing them - it is all in how he displays his work. Bryant will find a pod of whales, and then stay at the surface of the water, waiting for one of the whales to approach him. When they do, he starts photographing them, swimming less than six feet away from them. After taking hundreds of high resolution images of a whale - all on the whale's terms - he pieces them together into one complete, life-size whole. He's the first artist to show photos of whales at life-size, and the impact is profound. By showing these massive images in whaling countries like Norway, he hopes to change perceptions about the animals and - with luck - slow or even stop whaling. Check out the documentary on Bryant Austin's work, an interview with him, and more of the stunning images.

Short Film: In the Eye of the Whale from MMCTA on Vimeo.

The project is beautiful and inspiring. While talking with Austin after the screening, I asked him about his strategy for finding the "special individuals" that are the subjects of this pieces. He said it is the result of months upon months of looking for whale pods, then getting in the water and waiting for a whale to approach him. It is always on the whales' terms, and so the subject is usually one of the more curious, friendly individuals of the pod. That whale, he states, becomes an ambassador for the species.


Image via Bryant Austin

From Austin's biography: "During these rare and unique encounters, Austin experiences the whale's meticulous movements around his body. The whales will gently reposition their pectoral fins and flukes in order to avoid causing Austin any harm or serious injury. He puts his life at risk every time he photographs a whale in these conditions. Working intimately with fifty to one hundred ton subjects is a delicate process dictated on the terms set by the whale; Austin's success is dependent upon the relationship he builds with his willing subject. Less than one millionth of one percent of the human population will experience what Austin has witnessed.

Bryant Austin's inspiration for this project began five years ago while diving in the Kingdom Of Tonga. Austin was six feet in front of a humpback whale calf when he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder -- he turned to face the eye of the mother. She extended her 15-foot, one-ton pectoral fin to gently let him know that she was watching him. It was at this moment, when Austin locked eyes with the mother whale, that he realized what had been missing in the field of whale photography and conservation, an emotional connection...mammal-to-mammal, species to species."

His largest photo to date is 6 feet by 28 feet, and it took 2800 hours to complete.

Here, Leah Lamb of Current TV interviews Bryant Austin about his project, and the conservation purpose behind it.

Check out more of Austin's work at his website Studio Cosmos
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Tags: Animals | Artists | Conservation | Oceans | Whales