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The Green Life: Whale Tales: Bryant Austin’s Life-Sized Portraits

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May 10, 2011

Whale Tales: Bryant Austin’s Life-Sized Portraits

Humpbacks Floating in the warm South Pacific, photographer Bryant Austin felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. He turned to find himself face to face with a female humpback whale, who had just warned him that he was coming too close to her young calf, which he'd been following with his camera.

The encounter convinced him to take a new direction in his work. Though he spent the past 40 years pursuing fine art wildlife photography, this closely personal experience made him freshly aware of whales’ immensity and of the fact that they exist on a scale that most people never fully appreciate. Since then, he's focused on creating massive, often life-size photographic portraits of cetaceans. The largest, a 6-by-30-foot portrait of a dwarf Minke whale, weighs close to 600 pounds.

Getting acquainted with whales in the wild (he spends several months each year following certain pods through the world’s oceans) inspired Austin to establish a nonprofit, Marine Mammal Conservation Through the Arts. Through MMCTA, he exhibits his photos around the globe, hoping to motivate others to protect whales from the threats that endanger them by presenting them in their full magnificence.

Check out the recent story about him in the New York Times, and if you're in the Bay Area, see his photos at the Electric Works gallery.  

--Zoë J. Sheldon

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