07 October, 2011 — 09 January, 2012
On This Earth, A Shadow Falls
Nick Brandt’s photograph of an elephant drinking captures, in all its detail, the quiet reserve of this creature, its weathered skin and ivory tusks dusty and worn.
Each individual wrinkle, each contour, its gentle gaze, is imbedded into the paper, the result of patience and tripping the shutter at just the right moment. Through his craft Brandt grants us an intimate glance into the private world of these gentle beasts. In his immeasurable admiration for these animals, he has dedicated himself to depicting their majesty. It was in 1996, that he found his current calling. Brandt was directing a music video, which required him to travel to Tanzania where he became enchanted with the country’s flora and fauna. He began photographing in 2001 and, in 2003; he decided to abandon his successful directing career completely in order to dedicate himself full-time to photographing African animals.
However Brandt is not a wildlife photographer. On the contrary, he is a portraitist. His empathetic portraits of animals challenge the stereotypical approaches to their depiction. According to Brandt, “Ultimately, I am not interested in creating work that is documentary or filled with action and drama, which has been the norm in the field of photography of animals in the wild.” Furthermore Brandt does not use telephoto lenses; instead he is determined to be close to his subjects. ”I believe that being close to the animals makes a huge difference in the photographer’s ability to reveal its personality. You wouldn’t take a portrait of a human being from a hundred feet away and expect to capture their soul; you’d move in close,” muses Brandt. The resulting fine art prints are far removed from the glossy pages of National Geographic.
Equally compelling are Brandt’s cinematic panoramas. The expansiveness of his African landscapes contrast sharply with the intimacy of his animal portraits. Here Brandt returns to his directorial roots. The panoramas set the scene and describe the environment that provides sustenance and shelter for its creatures. Lions, cheetahs, hippos, buffalo, and zebras are carefully framed within sweeping landscapes that possess a grandeur on par with the work of Ansel Adams. Moreover the scale of Brandt’s prints reflects the size of the portrayed animal or the breadth of the landscape, imbuing his images with an incredible majesty and presence. His black and white photographs are often sepia toned hearkening back to the daguerreotypes of the mid-19th century. Brandt’s visual references relay the sense that these creatures and their environment are from a bygone era. The unfortunate reality of the troubled state of these animals and their habitat is reflected in Brandt’s aesthetic.
Big Life Foundation
Global warming, increased human encroachment, poaching, deforestation, and political instability threaten the future of the natural habitat of Africa’s animal population. For Brandt, these animals are far more than the subjects of his camera. They are the last of their kind. In truth the driving spirit behind his work is to preserve these creatures for posterity. According to Brandt, “To me, every creature, human or non-human, has an equal right to live, and this feeling, this belief that every animal and I are equal, affects me every time I frame an animal in my camera.” This is why, in September 2010, Brandt established the Big Life Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems. Brandt’s photographs are more than breathtaking; his images raise awareness and funds for the preservation of these magnificent creatures. They are a testament to the natural world we so often take granted, and a challenge to our passivity in the face of their destruction.
For more information on Big Life Foundation and how you can help save African wildlife please visit: www.biglifeafrica.org
The collection of photographs in the exhibition represent Brandt’s ongoing photographic project, which is presented in a trilogy of books that memorializes the vanishing grandeur of the natural world of East Africa. The exhibition spans the best of the work from the first two books in the trilogy namely, On This Earth and A Shadow Falls, in addition to some of the latest photographs that will be published in the third book. Currently work in progress, the images from the third book will reveal a darker, starker vision of this diminishing world.