Every story has a beginning. Mine started with a bang and a tug. Then the sperm whale took my leg into its mouth. My life would never be the same. Before I elaborate, please allow me to put my relationship with the ocean in context.
About the photographer
For as long as I can remember, I have loved the sea and everything in it. There was no defining moment per se, no specific reason why I became enamored with the ocean. In fact, my penchant for chasing crabs, studying starfish, and marveling at the many weird and wonderful forms of the residents of the sea was just there, as natural to me as the breathing of air or the passing of time. I never thought about it, and I assumed everyone else felt the same.
This was, of course, not the case. I was raised in a conservative Chinese family. My father was a doctor, as were most of our acquaintances. I was the eldest male child in my generation; I took readily to math and the natural sciences. It was, therefore, a foregone conclusion that I, too, would become a doctor. My parents expected me to have a stable, respectable career and that I would accumulate material wealth; that I would be a pillar of whatever community I chose.
The ocean played no role in this preordained vision of my life. I chose a different path, however. I started diving in 1990 and took up underwater photography in 1995. Those were the days of film, when progress was hard-earned and failures abundant. For many years, I studied and photographed the residents of vibrant coral reefs in Southeast Asia, but as time went by, I felt increasingly drawn to the open blue. The same yearning I felt as a child, the need to explore, the desire to learn, became too strong to resist. And that is how I ended up with a sperm whale chewing on my leg in September 2000. Over the course of three hours, fear turned into friendship, ignorance into respect. Since that first contact, I have devoted my life to learning about, engaging with, and photographing cetaceans.