Nick Brandt (British, b. 1964) provides fresh views of East Africa’s natural world. His work, motivated by concern for the region’s vulnerable ecosystems, portrays the beauty of the area’s wild animals and landscapes, yet alludes to their tenuous futures amidst urbanization and climate breakdown. Through this approach, the artist illuminates the unique magnificence of Africa’s environment while emphasizing its ties to environmental and social concerns.
Brandt has been photographing in East Africa since the 1990s, when he first traveled to Tanzania to direct the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song.” Since then, he has portrayed the wild animals and landscapes of East Africa in ways that push beyond the confines of his predecessors, most notably in his trilogy series On This Earth (2001-4), A Shadow Falls (2005-8), and Across the Ravaged Land (2010-13). The artist never relies on zoom or telephoto lenses but instead develops relationships with individual animals in order to take their portraits up close. Often, he shoots his subjects amidst candid action, capturing an elephant drinking water, a male and female lion nuzzling heads, or giraffes locking necks in a battle. Intimacy and a sense of kinship with the subjects palpitate throughout his portraits.
Brandt’s most recent series, Inherit the Dust (2016), addresses the relationship between Africa’s wild animals and human populations by fusing past and present environments. The artist installs life-sized portraits of wild animals in areas where they used to roam but no longer can, since the land has been transformed into large-scale industrial sites such as quarries, bridges, and wastelands. These epic panoramas show the complex heritage of place, presenting the current moment as a crucial climax in history: it is perhaps the last opportunity these animals have to gaze on their natural territories.
Nick Brandt was born in London and studied painting and film at London’s Saint Martin’s School of Art. In 2010, Brandt cofounded the Big Life Foundation, the first East African organization to coordinate anti-poaching initiatives across national borders. Major solo exhibitions include at the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow and the Fotografiska Museum, Stockholm. Several monographs of Brandt’s work have been published, including On This Earth (Chronicle Books, 2005), A Shadow Falls (Abrams, 2009), Across The Ravaged Land (Abrams, 2013), and Inherit the Dust (Edwynn Houk Editions, 2016). Brandt lives in the mountains of Southern California.