whales

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Photography

A New Book Documents the Magnificent Experience of Swimming with Humpback Whales

November 10, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Jem Cresswell, shared with permission

Between 2014 and 2018, Jem Cresswell spent countless hours submerged in the depths of the southern Pacific Ocean surrounding Tonga. There he captured a group of humpback whales as they gracefully maneuvered around him, allowing the Sydney-based photographer to unveil the details of their grooved underbellies and barnacle-clad skin. The original project has culminated in a new book that documents the creatures’ movements and idiosyncrasies in striking black-and-white images.

Giants spans 220 pages detailing the humpbacks and their calves. To complete the massive book, Cresswell pared down more than 11,000 shots, the majority of which haven’t been published previously. The photographer shares memories and historical details about the massive creatures throughout, including the incredible awareness that comes from swimming with sentient beings so much larger than himself. “You never forget your first humpback experience,” he writes. “The sublime sense of insignificance that it instills in you. It has to be one of the most humbling experiences on Earth.”

Only 1,500 copies of Giants, which are signed and numbered, are available for purchase on the book’s site, which also offers glimpses into Cresswell’s process creating the compendium. To stay up to date with the photographer’s latest underwater projects, follow him on Instagram.

 

 

 



Illustration

A Curious Whale Explores Dry Land in Quirky, Melancholic Illustrations by Xuan Loc Xuan

October 19, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Xuan Loc Xuan, shared with permission

In a whimsical narrative by Xuan Loc Xuan, an adventurous whale named Lucille traverses a bustling urban center, densely populated forest, and other dry-land locales on her search for a new home. The Ho Chi Minh City-based illustrator renders the marine mammal in a range of playful and melancholic scenes, either resting on a bed of flowers or trapped alone in a city as the sun sets. Titled The Whale Gets Stuck, the vivid series chronciles the whale’s journey that’s ripe with nostalgia and longing for her ocean home, a tale Xuan tells in her book Babà la balena in città, which is printed in Italian.

Shop prints of the illustrator’s quirky pieces on Pinlze or at Toi Gallery, and find two of her other children’s books, Giant: A Panda of the Enchanted Forest and Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains, on Bookshop. Head to Behance and Instagram to keep up with Xuan’s latest story-based projects.

 

 

 



Animation

'The Bird & the Whale' Tells a Short and Sweet Tale Using Paint-on-Glass Animation

December 10, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

An animated short film written and directed by Carol Freeman uses an old-fashioned technique called paint-on-glass to form each luminescent frame. At seven minutes long, The Bird & the Whale is comprised of 4,300 paintings created by a small team of female artists in Dublin, Ireland. The animated film tells the story of a young whale, struggling to find its voice, who finds a caged bird that is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. The Bird & the Whale has been lauded at festivals worldwide, including the Silver Screen Award for Best Animated Film at Cannes’ Young Director Awards. Freeman, who majored in animation at the National Film School of Ireland, also co-founded Paper Panther Productions. Watch the making-of inpthe video below and follow Paper Panther on Instagram.

 

 



Illustration

Deep Ocean Waters Amplify Emotions in Sonia Alins' Evocative Mixed Media Illustrations

July 25, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

“The swimmers III. The gathering”

Illustrator Sonia Alins (previously) creates evocative aquatic scenes using a combination of two and three dimensional elements. Smooth, translucent vellum creates the visual effect of water, and Alins sometimes inserts tufts of colored thread or small sheets of tulle to invoke the ocean floor’s textural topography. Alins then creates carefully placed slits in the vellum to allow her figurative illustrations to peek through the water. Swimming women and the occasional whale move through the murky water, with expressions ranging from peacefulness to mild distress. In an interview with Sara Barnes, Alins explained her deep connection to the water:

I was born near the Mediterranean sea and the influence of it and water in my culture is something defining. I guess it’s part of my DNA. The truth is that the sea has always been present in my life and has transmitted a special and positive energy to me. When taking the first steps of my Dones d’aigua series, water came to me as the perfect medium to communicate and expand emotion. The protagonists of my works interact with this mass of water where they are immersed and, there, their feelings are amplified, their shouts are heard louder, their desperation is felt more profoundly… But also, when they are calm, it feels like a more rewarding emotion too.

The Spain-based artist’s minimal yet impactful style lends itself to literary and editorial illustrations, and Alins has received several advertising and book awards for her work. You can explore more of Alins’ aquatic worlds on Instagram and Behance, and shop prints and products in her Society6 store.

“What I learnt from whales” series

“Dones d’aigua III” series

“The Swimmers”

“The Swimmers” (detail)

“What I learnt from whales” series

“Dones d’aigua III” series

 

 



Amazing

Freediving Champion Guillaume Néry Swims Across Several of the World's Oceans with One Breath

February 18, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

In the newest film by Guillaume Néry (previously), the world champion free diver swims across the world in one breath, or at least creative editing and camera tricks present the illusion of this great feat. One Breath Around the World follows Néry to the spectacular scenes he explores without a snorkel or air tank, like a variety of underwater caves or a pod of clustered whales. The film is shot by his wife Julie Gautier (previously) who was also free diving as she filmed Néry throughout France, Finland, Mexico, Japan, the Philippines, and other oceanic destinations. The film was created through the pair’s production company Les Films Engloutis. You can see more of their spectacular underwater films on Vimeo. (via My Modern Met)

 

 



Art

When the Sun Sets in Baiona, a Seemingly Simple Whale Mural Reveals a Belly Full of Sailors

December 19, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

A new collaborative mural by Barcelona-based artists María López and Javier de Riba undergoes a dramatic shift from day to night. Titled Hizkuntza, the mural appears to be a simple outline of a whale by day, but darkness reveals an intricate glowing design. The placement of the whalers inside the whale’s belly suggests an ambiguous power dynamic: did the whale swallow the sailors, or did they overtake the beast and turn it into a ghost of its former self?

The mural is located in Patxa Plaza in Baiona, a small city on the southwest coast of France that is a popular tourist destination. The Plaza in particular is a site of public gathering and celebration of Basque culture. In a description of the mural on Behance, the artists explain that they were inspired by the complex history of whaling. Commercial extinction of the Eubalena Glacialis whale in the Cantabrian Sea forced Basque sailors to explore new horizons, which created new languages like Basque-Icelandic and Algonquin-Basque.

López and de Riba often work in glowing paints, and focus on the culture and history of the locations where they install their murals. You can see more of their work on Instagram and see behind-the-scenes in videos on their Vimeo channelHizkuntza is also available as a limited edition glow-in-the-dark print from the artists’ website, Reskate Studio.