Video of Nick Brandt discussing his recent exhibition at Hasted Kraeutler, On This Earth, A Shadow Falls.
In 2000, Brandt embarked upon his ambitious photographic project: a trilogy of books to memorialize the vanishing natural grandeur of East Africa.
Lion Before Storm, Sitting Profile Masai Mara 2006 His photography bears little relation to the colour documentary-style wildlife photography that is the norm.
He photographs on medium-format black and white film without telephoto or zoom lenses. (He uses a Pentax 67II with only two fixed lenses.) His work is a combination of epic panoramas of animals within dramatic landscapes (for example, Hippos on the Mara River, Masai Mara, 2006; Cheetah & Cubs Lying on Rock, Serengeti 2007), and graphic portraits more akin to studio portraiture of human subjects from the early 20th Century, as if these animals were already long dead, from a bygone era (Elephant Drinking, Amboseli, 2007)
Brandt does not use telephoto lenses because he believes that being close to the animals make a huge difference in his ability to reveal their personality. He writes: "You wouldn't take a portrait of a human being from a hundred feet away and expect to capture their spirit; you'd move in close.
As American photography critic Vicki Goldberg writes: "Many pictures convey a rare sense of intimacy, as if Brandt knew the animals, had invited them to sit for his camera, and had a prime portraitist's intuition of character...as elegant as any arranged by Arnold Newman for his human high achievers".
Photographs like (Cheetah & Cubs, Masai Mara, 2003; Lion Before Storm - Sitting Profile,Masai Mara 2006) are good examples of this.
In his afterword in On This Earth, Brandt explains the reasons for the methods he uses:
I'm not interested in creating work that is simply documentary or filled with action and drama, which has been the norm in the photography of animals in the wild. What I am interested in is showing the animals simply in the state of Being. In the state of Being before they are no longer are. Before, in the wild at least, they cease to exist. This world is under terrible threat, all of it caused by us. To me, every creature, human or nonhuman, 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. The photos are my elegy to these beautiful creatures, to this wrenchingly beautiful world that is steadily, tragically vanishing before our eyes.
|© Nick Brandt | Lion Before Storm, Sitting Profile Masai Mara 2006|
|© Nick Brandt | Elephant Drinking, Amboseli, 2007|
|© Nick Brandt | Ranger with Tusks of Killed Elephant, 2011|
Text via wikipedia | video via Hasted Kraeutler