Nick Brandt is an English photographer whose themes always relate to the disappearing natural world, before much of it is destroyed by mankind.
From 2001 to 2018, he has photographed in Africa. In his trilogy, On This Earth, A Shadow Falls Across The Ravaged Land (2001-2012), he established a style of portrait photography of animals in the wild similar to that of the photography of humans in studio setting, shot on medium format film, attempting to portray animals as sentient creatures not so different from us.
In Inherit the Dust (2016), in a series of panoramas, Brandt recorded the impact of man in places where animals used to roam, but no longer do. In each location, Brandt erected a life-size panel of one of his unreleased animal portrait photographs, placing the displaced animals on sites of explosive urban development, new factories, wastelands and quarries.
This Empty World (2019) addresses the escalating destruction of the natural world at the hands of humans, showing a world where, overwhelmed by runaway development, there is no longer space for animals to survive. The people in the photos also often helplessly swept along by the relentless tide of 'progress'.
Each image is a combination of two moments in time, captured weeks apart, almost all from the exact same locked-off camera position:
A partial set is built and lit. Weeks follow whilst the wild animals in the area become comfortable enough to enter the frame. Once the animals are captured on camera, the full sets are built. A second sequence is then photographed with a cast of people drawn from local communities and beyond.
Brandt has had solo gallery and museum shows around the world, including New York, London, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris and Los Angeles.
Born and raised in England, he now lives in the southern Californian mountains.
He is co-founder of Big Life Foundation, fighting to protect the animals and ecosystem of a large area of Kenya and Tanzania.
On this Earth:
The first book in the trilogy, On This Earth (Chronicle Books, 2005) constitutes 66 photos taken 2000-2004, with introductions by the conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall and the author Alice Sebold. The photographs in this book are a unadulterated vision of an African paradise, deliberately contrasting with what is to follow in the subsequent books. Elephant with Exploding Dust, Amboseli 2004, the photo on the book's cover, has since become one of Brandt's best-known images. Critical response to the book, heralded Brandt's photographic achievement. Black and White magazine called his photos "heartbreakingly beautiful".
A Shadow Falls:
The second book in the trilogy, A Shadow Falls, (Abrams, 2009) features 58 photographs taken 2005-2008. It is generally regarded to be superior to "On This Earth". In additional introductions, philosopher Peter Singer, author of the groundbreaking Animal Liberation, explains why Brandt's photographs speak to an increasing human moral conscience about our treatment of animals. The photography critic Vicki Goldberg places Brandt's work in the history of the medium. As the title of the book implies, this book, although replete with images of ethereal beauty and poetry, is a more melancholic interpretation of the world he photographs. Indeed, critic Vicki Goldberg writes: " A Shadow Falls, taken in its entirely, is a love story without a happily ever after." The photos in the book are deliberately sequenced: the opening images are of an unspoiled lush green world, filled with animals and water ("Wildebeest Arc, Masai Mara 2006" ). As the book progresses, the photos become gradually more stark, until towards the end, the trees are dead, the water gone, the animals are vastly reduced in numbers, until the book closes with the final ambiguous image, of a lone, abandoned ostrich egg on a parched lake bed. "Abandoned Ostrich Egg, Amboseli 2007". In addition the Artist's Edition book, entitled, On this Earth, a Shadow Falls, (Abrams Books/Big Life Editions) was published in 2010, combining the best 90 photos from the first two books, in a larger volume with much superior printing to the first two books.
Across The Ravaged Land:
The completion of Nick Brandt’s trilogy: “On This Earth, A Shadow Falls, Across The Ravaged Land.” Release date, September 3, 2013 (Abrams Books, 2013), documents the disappearing natural world and animals of East Africa. This is the third and final volume of Nick Brandt's work which reveals the darker side of his vision of East Africa’s animal kingdom and the juxtaposition of mankind. The trilogy marks the last decade of a stunning world of the beauty of East Africa’s Serengeti, Marsai Mara, Amboseli, and ends with a dark and well-known unhappy ending. “Across The Ravaged Land” introduces humans in his photography for the first time exhibiting the cost of poachers, killing for profit. One such example is Ranger with Tusks of Killed Elephant, Amboseli 2011. This photograph features one of the rangers employed by Big Life Foundation, the Foundation that Nick Brandt started in 2010. The ranger holds the tusks of an elephant killed by poachers in the years prior to the Foundation's inception. Brandt captures the trophies in these epic landscapes and the images of perfectly preserved creatures calcified by the salts of the Rift Valley soda lake. In both instances, the creatures appear in an ethereal animated state seemingly posing for their portraits.
Big Life Foundation:
In September 2010, in urgent response to the escalation of poaching in Africa due to increased demand from the Far East, Nick Brandt founded the non-profit organization called Big Life Foundation, dedicated to the conservation of Africa's wildlife and ecosystems. With one of the most spectacular elephant populations in Africa being rapidly diminished by poachers, the Amboseli ecosystem, which straddles both Kenya and Tanzania, became the Foundation's large-scale pilot project. Headed up in Kenya by renowned conservationist Richard Bonham, multiple fully equipped teams of anti-poaching rangers have been placed in newly built outposts in the critical areas throughout the 2-million-acre (8,100 km2) + area, resulting in a dramatically reduced incidence of killing and poaching of wildlife in the ecosystem.
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