Humpback whales are magnificent creatures we don’t get to see a lot of in real life (unless of course, if you work in the ocean). This is the reason we found photographer and visual artist Jem Cresswell’s works so amazing – he has immersed himself in such a strange yet beautiful world that only few get to experience, and he has shared his vision with us all.

For the past three years, the Australian-based artist photographed humpback whales, specifically during the animal’s yearly migration to Vava’u in Tonga. Swimming with these massive creatures in the South Pacific, Jem captured the gentle giants in a photo series he aptly calls “Giants” using his underwater camera.

The series features only a few of his 10,000 shots, each rendered in striking monochrome. Showcasing a mix of artistry and technical know-how, Jem’s yearly mission of going to Tonga to capture these moments are definitely worth the long wait.

In an interview, he described what made him create these animal portraits.

“I was initially drawn to the whales’ gentle nature, sheer size and the feeling of insignificance in their presence,” he said. “Over the past 3 years returning to Tonga, I have sought to capture intimate portraits of these complex and conscious animals, bringing the viewer into the world of these mystical giants.”

He is clearly fascinated by this strange yet astonishing creature, as he found that humpback whales have something special in them that made them closer to humanity than we may realize. Jem said that while he’s been intrigued by the giants’ enormousness, it’s found that humpbacks also have spindle cells in their brain. Basically, these cells were initially thought to be present only in humans and great apes. These cells were tied to social organization, intuition, and empathy, and are in fact three times more in number for whales than they are for us humans.

This similarity to human beings touched Jem so much that it’s one of the main reasons he generates these images in black and white.

In an interview with Colossal, he explained that the Giants project was focused on the whales’ “sense of character and consciousness.” For him, that black and white imagery allows people to view the subject directly and avoids distraction. He continued, “Black and white also has a sense of timelessness to it, which I feel represents how long these creatures have been around for.”

“Working on this project I had many overwhelming experiences,” he told My Modern Met. “This has taught me a greater appreciation, awareness and importance for not only these gentle giants, but for all other life that is on this planet.”

Surely we’d love to see more of this artist’s works in the future, be it on more whales or on other fascinating creatures. Meanwhile, check out these photos from the series:

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While Jem will continue to photograph humpback whales in the future, at the moment he is concentrating on getting the Giants series out into the world. The “Giants” series is available through the Michael Reid Sydney Gallery:

https://michaelreid.com.au/exhibition/giants-online-exhibition/

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For more information about the artist:

Main website: jemcresswell.com

Instagram: @jemcresswell

Thanks for reading!

h/t: Colossal, My Modern Met