“The return of the narwhal, the tusked whale of northern polar seas, is a long-anticipated event in the Canadian Arctic. After months of darkness and temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, winter gives way to spring, and the sea ice covering Lancaster Sound begins to splinter. Open stretches of water, called leads, become travel lanes for the small whales as they follow the retreating sea ice toward their ancestral summering grounds around Baffin Island” - Paul Nicklen
The narwhal looks like a creature that could only exist in fantasy; in fact, its majestic tusk once linked it to legends of the unicorn, and was believed to have magical as well as medicinal properties. Nicklen’s genius lies in his ability to photograph nature in moments of delicacy, emphasizing the importance of acknowledgement; for the photographing of narwhals is a difficult and momentous feat.
Just as Nicklen was thrilled to witness the annual return of the narwhals, so too were the Inuit people, whose culture is tied heavily to hunting them. For the seminomadic Inuits, the hunting of narwhals has provided necessary food, oils, tools, and raw materials for centuries, and they are the only ones allowed to hunt the creatures. With this image, we wish to present the cultural aspect of hunting and gathering to indigenous peoples, as well as its ties to the environment in which we all live.