I met with the photographer Gregory Colbert at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo. It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss his unique approach to capture the joy arising from a proximity between humans and other animal species. The interview was done for the "Brutus" magazine published by Magazine House (which carried a special issue devoted to this humble writer recently, by the way).
Some of Gregory's photos are truly incredible, e.g. where he swims with sperm whale mother and calves. These are carnivores, Gregory said. Did he not have fear? I asked. "Of course I had fear", Gregory said. When he overcame his fears through a careful planning and meticulous techniques, what emerged were breathtaking images of profound revelations.
I asked Gregory whether he felt privileged to be present in, and personally experience, these projects himself. He said yes. He likened what he has been doing to the adventures of astronauts, in search of the unknown.
In his case, the ritual might be one of the long forgotten, too. Looking at Gregory's photos, we are inspired and awed. We feel as if we have touched been touched by entities in the hidden dimensions previously unknown in our life in the "civilized" world. When Gregory shows these photos to the indigenous people, however, they show no surprise. It appears that enjoying the interaction with other animal species is a natural and unfortunately forsaken habit of our ancestors.
It is an interesting question where the newly surging awareness of interspecies proximity would bring to us. It would take us out of the status quo of what Gregory describes as the "species ghetto", and eventually guide us to a better harmony between man and nature. From a scientific point of view, it is a challenge to work out a model where interspecies empathies
contribute to a better survival of all the species involved.
I asked Gregory whether he regarded his photos as documentaries. He said no, despite the fact that no artificial manipulations or retouching has been applied. His are the faithful depiction of what actually happened. It is then a case, repeatedly demonstrated in history, where revealing the truth results in a awe-inspiring beauty, which has been hidden to be discovered by an artist. Talking to Gregory reminded me of the many secrets hidden and forgotten in the universe where we find our mortal lives.
Man (Gregory Colbert himself) swimming with sperm whale mother and calves.