The photographs in this portfolio represent a five year effort to create the world's first life-size, 1:1 scale photographs of whales. The initial body of work created in 2005 to 2006 occurred over a 124 day period at sea with a population of humpback whales. The artist sold everything he owned and left his job of eight years to begin the process of realizing this inspiration. The color photographs were created during the fifth year of his work where he was commissioned to create his largest photographs for exhibitions in Norway and Japan, countries that commercially hunt whales.
Bryant Austin is an experimental multi-media artist whose life-long passion has been exploring the depths of possibility in connecting with the greatest minds in the waters. The impetus behind his work is the thought of losing over five million years of evolving culture and communication in the largest brain ever to exist on Earth; to not only lose it, but to never understand what we've lost.
His journey and challenge to recreate the transcendent sensation one experiences floating an arm’s length away from the eye of an inquisitive whale, has compelled him to create breath-taking photo mosaics at “whale scale”- both in terms of size and in the level of detail witnessed in ‘real life’.
This inspiration was brought to light in 2004 when, floating motionless, he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder, one that felt too solid to originate from a dive companion. As he slowly turned to investigate the tap’s source, he became eye-to-eye with a 45 ton female humpback whale. She had reached out with her two ton, 15 foot long pectoral fin to gently touch him, letting him know that she was behind him.
Her eye was fully illuminated from the late afternoon sun scintillating over his shoulder. Looking into her eye, he saw for the first time the calm mindful expression of a whale peering into his own eyes. In that instant he saw clearly what had been missing in the four decade effort to visually communicate the reality of whales - moments like these documented on their terms, at their scale.
The epiphany was powerful and clear, leading him to sell everything he owned, including his home, and leaving a job of eight years at a sea otter research facility. By 2009, Austin composed the largest and most detailed photographs of whales that have ever existed in the world. His work has been met with international acclaim, and has been received enthusiastically during exhibits worldwide, including shows in Norway and Japan – countries that continue to hunt whales. Austin anticipated that these would be his most intractable critics. Instead, by allowing viewers to exercise freedom to explore their own responses, he has come away from these experiences with a renewed sense of optimism, knowing that with sufficient time and intention, it is possible to promote changes in attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs.
With these discoveries, Austin is expanding his creative vision and forging new paths to integrate cutting-edge science and technology with an artist’s creative vision and perspective. He is now pursuing his next commission to create a ninety foot wide photograph of a blue whale in extraordinary detail. The same technology, methods and techniques to create this photograph will be applied to creating a life-size mosaic of a living whale entangled in fishing gear to illuminate the consequences for our unsustainable love for sea food that collectively kills over 300,000 whales dolphins and porpoises each year.
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