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TOKYO

Life-size whale pics will leave viewers in awe

by Edan Corkill

Your average digital camera takes photos at a resolution of 10 million to 15 million pixels. That’s more than enough to take a detailed image of, say, Tokyo Tower. Now imagine a camera with almost five times that resolution — capturing a massive 50 million pixels in a single photo — and imagine taking it underwater to capture photos of the biggest mammals on the planet, whales, from as close as two meters.

What you end up with — as is apparent in an extraordinary exhibition now on show in Tokyo — are some of the most detailed photographs of some of the most loved but generally most inaccessible animals on the planet. The mind-boggling resolution of these photographs, which were taken by American Bryant Austin in the Caribbean, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere, means that they can be printed at life size — in other words, whale size. Not only that, but some have been joined into composite images so that the entire body of a single whale can be viewed in a single image — the largest is nine meters in length. You can literally experience what it feels like to come face-to-face with a whale.

And of course, with Japan continuing its controversial annual research whaling in the Southern Ocean, there are many who would feel it is high time for the average Japanese to stand face-to-face with whales — while they are still alive, that is. Nevertheless, this exhibition steers politely clear of any overt political posturing or didacticism. Including interactive computer-generated animations by well-known marine-life illustrator Haruyoshi Kawai and video footage from whale-watching sites in Japan, the show simply aims to present in a little more detail — OK, a lot more detail, given all those pixels —— the lives of whales.

Eye to Eye With The Whale: New Tales About Whales continues through Dec. 18 at Temporary Contemporary Gallery, 1-14-7, Asahi Warehouse 2F, Tsukishima, Tokyo. Access is via Tsukishima Station on the Oedo and Yurakucho subway lines. Admission is free. For further details, call (03) 3230-3597 or visit www.beautifulwhale.com. Y