/ 2018 / Press / Feature Story

People of the Whale

  • Prize
    Bronze in Press/Feature Story, Bronze in Press/Nature/Environmental
  • Photographer
    Kiliii Yuyan

Bowhead whaling is a cultural cornerstone of
Iñupiaq identity and a primary source of food
on the Arctic Slope, where the cost of living is
nearly three times that of mainland US. For the
past three springs, I have stood on the sea ice
as a guest of a whaling crew. As an indigenous
person, I wanted to understand subsistence
life in the Arctic, where the danger of cultural
death is just as imminent as an attack from a
polar bear.

I’m beginning to understand this Native
culture, and by extension, my own. The
traditions, the whaling, they bring everyone
together. From the moment a whaling crew
begins to prepare, half the village finds a way
to participate. This is what it means to be the
People of the Whale. I leave this project with an
invisible Iñupiaq sensibility deeply embedded,
and a new community to call my home.

Kiliii Yuyan is an indigenous Nanai/Hézhè & Chinese-American photographer and filmmaker. He has contributed award-winning features for National Geographic Magazine, TIME, NPR, and the BBC. On assignment, he has fled collapsing sea ice, weathered botulism from fermented whale blood, and found kinship at the edges of the world. Kiliii is also a National Geographic Expeditions Expert for the Arctic. He is based out of Seattle.

Awards * PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers, 2019
* PCNW 22nd Juried Exhibition, 2019, First Place
* Best of ASMP, 2018, First Place, Series
* Eddie Adams XXXI, 2018
* PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris, 2018, Bronze, Feature Story
* PDN World in Focus, 2017, 1st Place, Photo Essay
* PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris, 2017, Gold, Press
* Critical Mass, 2017, Top 50
* PDN Photo Annual, 2017, Personal Work
* International Photography Awards, 2017, Silver, Deeper Perspective
* Communication Arts Annual, 2017, Multimedia
* Sienna International Photo Awards, 2017, HM, Editorial
* International Photographer of the Year, 2016, Silver, Editorial
* Sony World Photo Awards, 2016, Shortlist, Still Life
* PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris, 2015, HM, Press
* International Photography Awards, 2015, HM, Feature Story, Portrait
* Communication Arts Annual, 2015, Stock
* International Photography Awards, 2013, HM, Conceptual, Portrait