Shawn Heinrichs and Hannah Fraser, who in the past have teamed to raise awareness about the plight of sharks and giant mantas by using beautiful imagery featuring Fraser as an undersea model, have turned their attention toward humpback whales.
This week they released a short film titled “Betrayal,” in which Fraser acts as a betrayed woman who has fallen into deep despair. She plunges into the dark ocean and is about to give up when she receives a visit by a humpback whale calf. (The underwater footage begins just after the 1-minute mark. The calf appears at 1:42.)
The human and mammal bond as they perform what appears to be a choreographed dance, and the amazing encounter restores the woman’s hope and faith.
“The woman rediscovers hope and love, dancing with joy as she experiences a profound connection, and comes face to face with this incredible being,” says Heinrichs, an award-winning cinematographer and founder of Blue Sphere Media.
Humpback whales, like most other species of whales, were hunted to the brink of extinction during the whaling era. There is mounting pressure by some nations to have them removed from the endangered species list so they can resume hunting.
Heinrich chose to feature humpbacks for this reason, and the end of “Betrayal” contains a “shock twist” in that it shows a whale being harpooned. That’s followed by this message, “Pressure is mounting to resume commercial whaling. Will we betray them again?”
The footage is unique and remarkable because Fraser was able to get so close to the young humpback, whose mother was nearby, for an extended period. In the video, the mother ultimately arrives and reclaims her calf.
“The fact that these whales can choose to interact with us so freely, when they can swim away in an instant, and considering our species drove their species to the brink of extinction … to spend time in their company is both humbling and a life-changing experience,” Fraser says.
Heinrichs and Fraser spent three days traveling to the unnamed location, and six days shooting in what Heinrich described as challenging conditions.
Their previous work was titled “Mantas Last Dance” and it was intended to raise awareness about giant mantas, docile plankton-eaters that are valuable tourist attractions but are nonetheless being hunted relentlessly in some regions.
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