The following excerpt is from the website of talented photographer Bryant Austin . The museum is currently in discussions with Mr. Austin to include some of his work in our upcoming “From Pursuit to Preservation” exhibit which will open on July 3rd, 2009.
Bryant Austin is an experimental multimedia artist whose current focus is with whales. His goal is to produce high resolution life-size photographs of his subjects. His work is entirely dependent upon whales who initiate close inspections of him less than three meters away. Entire seasons are invested annually in search of these moments. When these rare and exceptional encounters occur the artist composes a series of vertically oriented photographs along the whale’s body later to be made into a life-size composite photograph.
This intimate distance has proven necessary to reveal their true colors and tonal range with all of the intricate detail intact; most importantly, this captures the subtle expressions in his subject’s eyes. The process rests on the artist’s complete trust of his subjects not to bring him accidental or intentional harm. During these rare and special moments Austin has experienced the whale’s precision movements around his body. They gently reposition their pectoral fins and flukes when they would have otherwise caused injury. Working this intimately with his fifty to one hundred ton subjects is a delicate process entirely dictated on the terms set by the whale.
The foundations for Austin’s vision began forty years ago when the NASA Mariner Space Program brought back humanity’s first view of our planets and moons from deep space with high resolution photo mosaics. The concept of applying NASA’s approach to imaging large bodies has opened the pathway for Austin to produce his life-size photographs of whales. His vision was brought into sharp focus in 2004 through his collaboration with Libby Eyre, an Australian whale biologist with over twenty years experience. Together they developed the methods and techniques to safely and sustainably carry out their mission. During the seven months of field work over a three year period, Austin and Eyre have been touched, caressed, and even gently embraced by these creatures and never suffered harm or injury.
Recognizing the fact that almost every nation in the world is contributing to the annihilation of these creatures, whether by direct or indirect means, his desired audiences are those who have had no experience to be moved by whales or their plight. Realizing that less than one millionth of one percent of the human population will experience what he has experienced with these creatures, his vision is to exhibit this resulting body of work in public spaces internationally to provide humanity with a profound and intimate glimpse of these creatures in a way never before explored or shared on such a scale.
The photographs featured on this site represent some of the artist’s more intimate moments with these creatures. In 2007 this small body of work was released to collectors who share the artist’s vision for inspiring change globally. The next phase of his project, comprised of forty months of field work with at least five endangered whale species including the Blue Whale, is entirely funded through the sale of these photographs.
“The pivotal impact I seek is to upset the abstractness of whales; my aim is to make them real. In popular media we experience whales through small photographs and brief video clips which fail to convey thier existence in anything more than an infrequent, pale, and abstract way. My goal is to present their true size with all of the intricate detail and texture revealed, providing an immediacy and sensorial reality for powerful psychological impact. The audience will have the ability to witness the amazing size of the whale, yet see the intricate detail of the body, in particular the whale’s eye with its evident consciousness and emotion.”