In his talks he offers insight into three major areas of his work. It begins with the journey to follow the inspiration given to him by two whales, and the external and personal challenges he had to overcome to document and share these creatures on their scale.
With the challenges he faced in our world, he moves to share the challenges in the world of a whale. Over the years Austin has grown to appreciate the concept of coming to know whales as individuals. He will share stories about seven of them, some that have spent up to six hours per day for five days with him. Individual whales spending time with him on their terms, from a distance less than six feet is what is at the core of his work, and what allows him to create largest photographs of whales in the world.
His talk concludes with his extensive work in Norway and Japan where he has so far carried out six exhibitions within these countries. He offers insights to the overwhelmingly positive responses both from the public and from the media in these countries and how it has provided him with a glimpse into the potential for positive change with the simple act of making a whale visible. He concludes with a message of hope for the oceans, one that can be achieved if new bonds between species can be formed.
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.
A new chapter of Austin’s work has begun -- one that is teeming with ideas and inspiration to document and share whales globally in new and innovative ways. This next phase of his work will focus on the impacts of our lifestyle choices that threaten whales and their ocean habitats.
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. His vision is to create a ninety foot wide photograph of a blue whale in extraordinary detail and to compose a life-size photograph of a living whale entangled in fishing gear.
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