“I just hope that mankind comes to its senses and allows these elephants to cross these lands for generations to come.”
~ Nick Brandt
I am sure I’ve never seen nature photography quite like this before. It was purely accidental; a breathtaking photo of an elephant came up when I did a google search for ‘elephant images’ for a previous article.
It was this one.
This massive creature was having a drink and staring down the camera. He looked painted, penned-in, digitally-mastered. Too flawless to be non-fiction.
I was entranced.
I bookmarked this photo in my mind as something beautiful to return to.
Often, those kinds of I’ll-check-it-out-later inspirations either never come to pass or take an awfully long time. This one, merely hours. I didn’t let it out of my thoughts for the remainder of the afternoon.
Here I am. Returning.
The photographer is a man named Nick Brandt.
It feels as though each of his photos are heavy as a novel. You simply cannot rush through. They are absorbing and ominous.
Brandt just completed his ambitious, 13-year, photographic project: a trilogy of books to memorialize the vanishing natural grandeur of East Africa.
The books are titled, respectively: On This Earth/ A Shadow Falls/ Across the Ravaged Land.
“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. His work is a combination of epic panoramas of animals within dramatic landscapes and graphic portraits more akin to studio portraiture of human subjects from the early 20th Century, as if these animals were already long dead.”
But it didn’t take long to discover Brandt is not just an exquisite camera-man.
In 2010, in an 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. It is dedicated to the conservation of Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems. One of the most spectacular elephant populations in Africa—the Amboseli ecosystem, which straddles both Kenya and Tanzania—is being rapidly diminished by poachers, and has become 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 two-million-acre area, resulting in a dramatically reduced incidence of killing and poaching of wildlife in the ecosystem.”(source.)
You can feel the weight of this devastation in Brandt’s photos. These animals feel familiar, yet ancient somehow. And I feel so grateful to him for not only capturing their essence in this epic collection of images, but for also committing to protect them long after he leaves and the film has been processed.
The following is a brief interview with Brandt from last fall, before an exhibition of Across the Ravaged Land.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWPIFVOIgvw
You can find his complete collection of images and more on the Big Life Foundation here.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise