“The colors of death and life of a whale,” by photographer Keri-Lee Pashuk

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Photo: Luciano InvernizziPhoto: Luciano Invernizzi

 

By Cristóbal Pérez R.
Translation by Brent Harlow
 
In 2015, in what is the single largest mortality event for cetaceans on record, more than 300 whales were found dead in Chilean Patagonia. Pashuk accompanied a team of scientists who, looking to discover the cause of the event, took two expeditions to the area between Golfo Tres Montes and Isla Madre de Dios between January and July of 2016. On these trips, they observed 367 beached sei whales that died “probably due to a toxic red tide caused by, among other factors, increased water temperatures,” according to the artist.
 
On these expeditions, while the scientists studied the whales by taking measurements and doing tests, Keri-Lee took advantage of the opportunity to take photographs. One fantastic result: the photo exhibition “The colors of death and life of a whale,” which opened on Monday at the Dreams Casino in Puerto Varas.
 
“Everything was spontaneous: I would go up above the boat with the scientists, and while they were doing their work, I would get my tripod, if I could reach it, and set it up—sometimes over the whale blubber—and start taking photos. I did it all as quickly as possible, without much preparation.” 
 
Pashuk believes that if she did not bring this phenomenon to light, no one else would, and this gives her work its great importance. “I like to capture moments, and if they move me, I want to share them,” she says. With these photographs, Keri-Lee is looking to make an impact and hoping to “make people think and reflect: if this has happened to the third largest mammal on the planet, what awaits us human beings?”
 
Keri-Lee photographing one of the dead whales. Photo: Katie McConnellKeri-Lee photographing one of the dead whales. Photo: Katie McConnell
  
According to her, we are losing our capacity to be surprised, as well as our wonder and our sensitivity to the natural environment surrounding us. Through the medium of photography, Keri-Lee wants to reawaken this sensitivity in people by sharing the experiences that she herself has lived through, and the feelings that she herself has felt. “There are experiences that are good, but there are others, like this one, that are bad, or not so good. But after death comes life, and everything returns to a state of equilibrium.” As the name of the exhibit indicates, Keri-Lee wants people to see the colors of life and death “so they come to realize that in death there is also life.” 
 
Pashuk maintains that photography is one of many ways to construct a moment, or a reality. “Just like my husband constructs his work using words, I portray moments through the use of photography. There are people who can read a scientific article about this whale mortality event and understand it, but there are others who have a different sensibility, and who perceive things better another way, in images for example. That is why I made this exhibit.” 
 
“The Colors of Death and Life of a Whale” was first shown in Punta Arenas. The photographer plans to show it next in Concepción and Valdivia and then, perhaps, even London. Keri-Lee hopes this tour will generate interest and cause people to take a more active role in protecting cetaceans. This is her third exhibit: in the others, she has drawn on her experiences at sea and in the woods. 
 
Photo: Luciano InvernizziPhoto: Luciano Invernizzi
 
Photo: Luciano InvernizziPhoto: Luciano Invernizzi
 
Photo: Luciano InvernizziPhoto: Luciano Invernizzi
 
 
A sailing life
Keri-Lee has been sailing the seas of the extreme north and south of the planet with her husband, Greg Landreth, for the last 27 years. This adventure, which may seem like madness to many, is for them a way of life. She is a Canadian, a photographer and visual artist. He is a New Zealander, a writer and a mountain climber. Both are sailors and lovers of nature. They met in Antarctica, and then stayed in contact by writing letters to one another. 
 
Later, in 1987, they sailed from New Zealand and crossed the Pacific to return to Antarctica. Greg intended to go climbing. But they shipwrecked south of Cabo de Hornos, and had to use their motorized sailboat in order to make it to Tierra del Fuego. They fixed the yacht in Ushuaia, and then left for Puerto Williams and Punta Arenas. It was their first visit to Chile. They have since then returned numerous times and are currently applying for a resident visa to make Chile their permanent home. They live primarily on their yacht, in the extreme south of the country, docking in Puerto Natales and Puerto Edén, together with their dog Pichidangui, who was given to them when they were traveling through a town of the same name. 
 
It was in 1999 and 2000 that Keri-Lee got her start into photography, during an expedition that would take her from Greenland to the icebergs of the Arctic, near the 74th parallel north. It was the beginning of a career that has complemented scientific studies conducted at the most extreme latitudes of the northern and southern hemispheres. It will now continue with the exploration of the canals and fjords of southern Chile. Says Pashuk: “We are always coming and going, but our heart is in Patagonia.”
 
Keri-Lee at the photo exposition in Dreams Casino of Puerto Varas. Photo: Luciano InvernizziKeri-Lee at the photo exposition in Dreams Casino of Puerto Varas. Photo: Luciano Invernizzi
 
 
“The colors of death and life of a whale” exhibit is comprised of 17 images—one in the casino lobby, and sixteen on the second floor—and a wall made of 367 brick-sized images, each one representing a whale that died. On the wall, visitors can leave a message to lament the loss of these animals. There is also a visitation book, where guests are invited to leave their impressions of the exhibit, which will be showing until April 20. Admission is free. 
 
For more information about Keri-Lee and her projects, visit www.northanger.org and www.expedition2016.wordpress.com
 
 
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