the whale hunt

The Whale Hunt by Jonathan Harris:

In May 2007, Harris spent nine days following an Inupiat whale hunt. He went to document, not to tell a tale or mount a platform. His process involved establishing a 'photographic heartbeat' by taking images every five minutes, even using a timer as he slept. The 'heartbeat' was variable, accelerating in times of stress and resulting in more pictures of those moments. The resulting 3,000+ images are gathered on the project site.

Harris' statement is fascinating reading, and the site is brilliant. His C.V. says that he 'designs systems to explore and explain the human world' but the genius thing about the project is that it is not an explanation. The site interface allows you to flip and filter through the images in a myriad of ways, constructing your own narrative. It's irresistible and dangerous. Given my own bloody-mindedness, my first goal was to find images of the kill. The tenor of the project left me uneasy with the impulse of reducing a cascade of moments to a single point.

I'm interested in that tension between messy comprehensiveness and the incisive word or image. That sort of editing is necessary to give ourselves some reassurance of our own understanding - to take the barrage of data swirling around us and find the handles, the crystalline points, the small piece that lets us think we understand the whole. But what gets left out? What do our choices say - these images we feel encapsulate so much? How much is miscommunicated in these acts of editing?

Images from top to bottom:
May 6, 11:35 PM: Smeared blood from dragging muktuk across the ice.
May 7, 12:40 AM: Whaling knives.
May 7, 1:40 AM: Joe Ahkivgaq's whale harvest.

All photos by Jonathan Harris.