Every spring for the last 4000 years, the Iñupiat people have stood on the tuvaq, the edge of the shorefast ice, waiting for the annual migration of bowhead whales. The whaling season has begun.
Bowhead whales were once thought to be a threatened species due to excessive international whaling in the 1800s. However, by the 1980s, Iñupiat whalers had proven that their own understanding of the bowhead whale population was far more accurate than scientists once believed. Today, Iñupiat communities manage hunting quotas of bowhead whales themselves. Unlike whaling in much of the world, the subsistence practices of the Iñupiat people maintain the bowhead whale as an unthreatened species — just as they have done for thousands of years.
Bowhead whaling is a cultural cornerstone of Iñupiat identity and a primary source of food on the Arctic Slope, where the cost of living is nearly three times that of mainland US. In spring of 2016, I spent 5 weeks standing on the sea ice as a guest of a whaling crew. As an indigenous person, I wanted to understand and document their subsistence life in the Arctic, where the danger of cultural death is just as imminent as an attack from a polar bear.
This video is a set of impressions of the stark and beautiful world on the sea ice. My crew stands on the ice next to our skinboat. We wait for the return of the bowhead whales, and give thanks to the gift of the whale for feeding an entire community. We watch, day and night, as starving polar bears try to catch us unawares, and the ice melts under our feet.
Last month, DPReview.com, the camera review site teamed up with me and Canon to shoot an extreme camera test. The crew followed me as I worked on the story of Barrow, Alaska, an Inupiat village on the North Slope of Alaska. There I spent time covering the story of indigenous whaling and the tragedy of climate change in the Arctic.
I just had the pleasure of speaking with Ibarionex Perello, host of the Candid Frame podcast and a well known-street photographer. Ibarionex and I were recently co-presenters at the photo expo PIX2015. I’m excited to be on the show since I’ve been a long time fan of the Candid Frame, which is really the best podcast on photography out there– it focuses on the art and process of photography rather than gear and technique.
We talked primarily about the Living Wild project, my long-term project on modern hunter-gatherer practitioners, as well as bit about my background growing up as a Native/Chinese kid and learning self-reliance. You can play/download it directly here.
Living Wild documents a group of 21st century hunter-gatherers who are rediscovering the traditional living skills of the Paleolithic. I gave a presentation on this multi-year documentary project for National Geographic at DPreview’sPhoto Interactive Expo 2015. It was a fabulous experience and I had the opportunity to share the stage with some of my heroes, including Aaron Huey, Cristina Mittermier and Joe McNally. More if you click through.
*Note, the YouTube link above is the ‘quick’ version and will be replaced by the final edited version. If it doesn’t work, try http://www.pix2015.com/videos.
Scavenging Guatemala began as an accident. In March 2015, I was working Glen Cooper, Photojournalism Director of the New England School of Photography. He had asked me join and help instruct at a workshop in Guatemala, where American photographers worked on documentary stories for 10 days. Since it was my first time teaching in a workshop, I anticipated that I wouldn’t have any more than a few hours to shoot my own work. But the truth is, in documentary photography, much of the work happens without a camera in your hands…
Hi folks, I just returned from a couple of exhilarating weeks in the Elkhorn Slough, near Monterey, CA. I spent the time there with conservation biologists, farmers, bird watchers, leopard sharks, and of course– sea otters! Here’s a behind the scenes peek of this shoot for the Nature Conservancy.