A whale of a tale


A whale of a tale

By Lou Foglia

saw a whale two summers ago. It didn’t make a sound, but I saw it. 

It caught my eye as I passed the “housewares” aisle and headed for “bric-a-brac.”

There it was—third shelf up, inside a secondhand store I visited during one of my trips home. 

I should probably clarify—it was a picture of a whale—and it continues to be one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen. 

I’m a photojournalist, and I’ve seen thousands of pictures. But this black and white print—matted to decaying particle board—changed my view of journalism. 

I bought the print despite its condition. I couldn’t let it sit there among mismatched spoons and old picture frames. 

Pictured was the tail of a humpback whale. The ocean surrounded it, and the sky above it was a glowing hue. 

I keep the 50-cent inspiration to remind me of the importance of journalism. 

In Native American folklore, whales are a symbol of communication, awareness and peace. As a photojournalist, I value communication and think awareness has the power to bring about peace. 

It may seem silly to compare myself to a whale, but the mammals share several characteristics with humans. Affectionate and self-aware, they are among the most intelligent beings in the ocean. They speak in complex dialogue with songs and codas scientists say have been passed along to each new generation for thousands of years.

In less than a week, college will be over for me, but I’ll continue to see whales as a symbol of the photojournalist I want to be.

It’s true that I will no longer have the immediate support of friends I’ve made along the way or the inspiration of my educators, but I’m not afraid to be on my own.

I want my relationship with journalism to take me to places I have not thought possible.

Consider a whale’s size: A humpback whale can weigh upwards of 66,000 pounds, and adult males can span more than 60 feet in length. It can live 7,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. For other species, this depth is simply uninhabitable.

This is what I appreciate most about the highly intelligent mammals. They can’t be confined to small ponds or rivers. Rather, they swim among the deepest depths of the ocean where it is dark and unknown.