Photographer Flies Across the World to Fulfill Boyhood Dream and Swim With Humpback Whales

Humpback Whale Photography by Kurt Arrigo

Photographer Kurt Arrigo lived out a childhood dream when he boarded a plane and made his way to Tonga. He made the long journey across the world to dive into the waters and photograph humpback whales. As an experienced underwater photographer, he knew that he needed to keep his expectations in check—one never knows what can happen when working with living creatures. Luckily, the trip more than exceeded what he'd hoped.

In preparation for the trip, Arrigo had taken a freediving course in order to strengthen his breathing underwater. His training came in handy when he encountered a mother whale and her calf. The photographer jumped into the water and, with the permission of the mother, he frolicked with the playful calf for 30 minutes. After collecting a wonderful series of photos, Arrigo bid the pair farewell as “mom” decided that it was time for them to go.

This was just one of many magical encounters that Arrigo experienced while in Tonga. Part of the trip's success was owed to Arrigo's attitude toward working with humpback whales. “One needs to respect the size and sheer power these beautiful mammals have,” Arrigo tells My Modern Met. “We are entering their space so one really needs to maintain a sense of calmness towards them. The challenge is to photograph and swim around them in harmony making sure you don't in any way feel like you are a threat.”

One look at Arrigo's photographs and it's clear that his sensitive approach worked.  Across black-and-white and color photography, the grace, beauty, and power of these humpback whales have been respected. Forty years in the making, the trip was particularly powerful for Arrigo. Not many of us can say that we were able to follow through on the dreams we had at 10 years old, but now Arrigo can.

Underwater photographer Kurt Arrigo flew to Tonga in order to photograph humpback whales.

Humpback Whale Photography by Kurt Arrigo

Humpback Whale Photography by Kurt Arrigo

Swimming with these whales had been a dream of his since childhood.

On one of his first encounters, he played with a whale calf under the watchful eye of its mother.

By respecting these enormous mammals, Arrigo was able to photograph them at their best.

Kurt Arrigo: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Kurt Arrigo.

Related Articles:

Magnificent Underwater Photos of the Humpback Whale

Photographer Shares Majestic Deep Dives with Big Beautiful Whales

Marine Photographer Captures Captivating Shots of Adorable Newborn Whales

Underwater Photographer Captures the Unique Beauty of Swimming With Humpback Whales

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.

Sponsored Content