The “Afghan Girl” Dolphin

I often think of my work as a collection of moments in the sea.

The wildlife photographs I make are the result of firing the shutter at a precise instant when an animal is captured in a blend of light, color, gesture and grace. And though the resulting photo can be viewed for decades, the moment in which it was made remains a ghost—an apparition that quickly vanishes into the past. But such is the beauty of photography, the quest to preserve a moment in time and to tell a story with each frame.

For most of the past year I’ve been deeply immersed in a story about dolphin cognition. Among the locations I’ve worked has been the Bahamas, where Dr. Denise Herzing has been studying wild spotted dolphins for the last 30 years. Before joining her on a research trip this summer, I talked with her at length about not only her work, but about the photographic potential of shooting these animals.

To my surprise, Herzing mentioned that the dolphin calf that was photographed by Flip Nicklin and featured on the September 1992 cover of National Geographic magazine is still around. Her name is Nassau.

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