“The Whale Hunt” and a new way of telling stories

In 2007, Jonathan Harris embarked on a journey to document an Inupiat Eskimo whale hunt in Barrow, Alaska creating a large database of photos which he called The Whale Hunt. Over the course of two weeks, Harris took 3,214 photos at varying intervals depending on the importance of the situation. He then downloaded the photos in chronological order and represented them as a heartbeat line depending on how frequent the photos were being taken in each situation that was occurring.

When I first entered the site I immediately was wowed by the aesthetically pleasing mosaic of chronologically placed photographs. While I find this new way of storytelling interesting, I find it as more of an experimental mode of databasing than an effective and attention-capturing mode of storytelling. I find it interesting that the mosaic makes the individual photos too small to be able to choose a certain event. Thus, the user can only get the gist of what is going on based on the colors of the lines of the mosaic.

Screenshot of Pinwheel display in Jonathan Harris’ “Whale Hunt”

The screenshot above shows the alternative option of viewing this chronological database. The Pinwheel display shows how certain times during the story have more photographs being taken at quicker intervals. While I think this a cool concept, it makes the story even harder to follow.

Looking through a more anthropological perspective, I think this is a cool way of encapsulating the events and actions of the Inupiat Eskimo people. I just do not think that it is particularly efficient as a mode of story telling. It makes me wonder, in the event that I conduct anthropological research, whether I should take a more experimental approach to displaying my research through photographic databases that show a constant stream of glimpses into the lives of different cultures.

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