“an animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” - martin buber
"my passion is exploring the depths of possibility in connecting humanity with the greatest minds in the water," says photographer bryant austin. “the whale challenges us to reevaluate our perceptions of intelligent, conscious life on this planet,” he adds. “the world is so much bigger than our imagination and they teach that every time i am with them.”
bryant says he’s following the words of thomas berry, that “teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” to that end, bryant has produced life sized photographed of whales, the largest and most detailed ever taken. each take up to 60GB of space on his computer.
bryant’s journey to photographing whales began when, depressed and suicidal, he decided to quit his job and sell everything he owned in order to fund a four month trip to tonga. “my whole life was built around the need for safety, security, a good paying job, and all the other things in life that you are told are important,” he said.
but then he “remembered the whales and that quiet voice telling me that i had to leave all that is safe and familiar and i just honored it. it was like this weight was coming off my shoulders.” but he adds, “i had this fear that i would be alone during this whole process, and that no one would want to be with me because i had nothing material to offer.” and of course there was the fear of failure.
but the result of the trip would be a single life sized portrait of a twelve foot long calf. his goal was to recreate the feeling he had when he looked into the eye of a mother whale, and share that same experience of wonder and amazement with the millions of people who will never encounter a whale in their lifetime.
“i’m always floating motionless, just watching from a distance and giving them space to explore their own natural curiosity,” he says of his process, which involves waiting hours for the whale to come to him. to create his final image, bryant will need to get within six feet of the animal, and will take up to 300 photographs, twenty of which will be selected and stitched together in a process that can take up to 300 hours.
the photos, weighing up to 600 pounds, have now toured norway, iceland and japan - all countries where whaling still occurs - in the hopes that the detailed life size splendor will give audiences an emotional connection with the whales. as one viewer in japan commented, “i feel like the whales are talking to me with their eyes.”
text from ny times, monterey county weekly, servicespace and bryant’s facebook