Gregory Colbert

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I have invented nothing. I have simply documented a magical alchemy that I want to share.
The whales do not sing because they have an answer. They sing because they have a song.

Gregory Colbert (born 19 April 1960) is a Canadian a film-maker and photographer best known as the creator of Ashes and Snow, a traveling exhibition of photographic artworks and films housed in the Nomadic Museum.


If you look at Paleolithic cave paintings, you see how people were depicted inside nature, not outside it. It was a kind of dream time. That’s what I’m exploring.
  • I spent all my time at school in the library. Bad teachers can teach you to learn on your own.
    • "Dances With Whales" by Alan Riding in The New York Times (22 April 2002)
  • The whales do not sing because they have an answer. They sing because they have a song.
    • Ashes and Snow : A Novel in Letters (2005) Flying Elephants Press
  • The stars you see at night are the unblinking eyes of sleeping elephants, who sleep with one eye open to best keep watch over us.
    • Ashes and Snow : A Novel in Letters (2005) Flying Elephants Press
  • In the next 25 years, the human race will have to decide whether or not to preserve the bestiary of Nature’s living masterpieces. Ashes and Snow is not meant to tell people to do some things and not to do other things. It’s meant to inspire. I hope it’s not a requiem.
    • As quoted in "Epiphanies in Sepia and Umber" by Matthew Gurewitsch, in The Wall Street Journal, (15 March 2005)
  • In exploring the shared language and poetic sensibilities of all animals, I am working toward rediscovering the common ground that once existed when people lived in harmony with animals. The images depict a world that is without beginning or end, here or there, past or present. I hope that the overall effect is an experience of wonder and contemplation, serenity and hope.
    • "Nature's Living Masterpieces" in Camera Arts (July 2005)
  • Nous avons besoin de renégocier notre contrat avec la nature. L'écologie est une force d'union qui peut diminuer l'intolerance et augmenter notre empathie envers les autres—avec les humains comme avec les animaux.
    • "Paix et Harmonie: Le Message de Notre Découverte" in Photo No. 427 (Mars 2006)
  • We need to renegotiate our contract with nature. Ecology is a unifying force that can diminish intolerance and expand our empathy towards others—both human and animal.
    • "Peace and Harmony: The Message of Our Discovery" in Photo No. 427 (March 2006)

Quotes about Colbert

  • He has realised a vision with an eloquent message, delivered without commentary or caption: if we didn't know before what we are obliterating, we do now.
    • As quoted in "Detours: Beauty and beasts" by Stephen McCarty in South China Morning News (9 May 2007)
  • Until now Gregory Colbert has been that rare artist who goes out of his way not to be noticed. He was represented by no gallery, he held no exhibitions for a decade, and he gave no interviews. He was in a sense a secret artist, though the secret was shared by a small group of wealthy private collectors who, through acquisitions and sheer enthusiasm, helped to finance his work.
    He needed this help. In his quest to photograph the mystical relationship between humans and animals, he made 27 lengthy trips to distant corners of the world over nine years. He was usually accompanied by a support team, supplies and equipment. He even rented oceangoing vessels for months on end. In brief, it was both costly and complicated to produce images of great simplicity.
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