The Ravaged Land

“Across the Ravaged Land” is the third and final volume of photographer Nick Brandt’s trilogy documenting the disappearing natural world and animals of Africa, following On This Earth, A Shadow Falls. On view now through 19 October, 2013, at Hasted Kraeutler, New York, and 2 November, 2013, at  Fahey/Klein Gallery Los Angeles, the artworks exhibited offer a darker vision of a world still filled with stunning beauty, but now fast disappearing at the hands of man.

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Nick Brandt, Ranger with Tusks of Killed Elephant, Amboseli, Limited Edition Archival Pigment Print, 2011, Courtesy Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles © Nick Brandt.

Brandt photographs his subjects, “in the same way I would a human being, watching for the right ‘pose’ that hopefully will best capture his or her spirit.” “What I am interested in is showing the animals simply in the state of Being. In the state of Being before they ‘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.”

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Nick Brandt, Lion Roar, Maasai Mara, Limited Edition Archival Pigment Print, 2012, Courtesy Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles © Nick Brandt.

Nick Brandt has been photographing endangered animals in Africa for over a decade, and was first drawn there in 1995 when he went to Tanzania to direct Michael Jackson’s, “Earth Song” video. Deeply moved by the experience he searched for a way to capture and preserve what he was seeing. In addition to his starkly powerful animal portraits, Across the Ravaged Land features haunting and evocative portraits depicting the rangers employed by Nick Brandt’s foundation, Big Life, who are empowered to protect the animals. Brandt also ‘repopulates’ the epic landscape with remains of animals that he finds or introduces, including hunters’ trophy heads looking out over the lands where they once roamed, and preserved birds and bats calcified in soda lakes, appearing to pose for their portraits, alive again in death.

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Nick Brandt, Elephant Mother & Baby Sleeping, Amboseli, Limited Edition Archival Pigment Print, 2012, Courtesy Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles © Nick Brandt.

“Over the years, there have been many questions regarding the work I do on the photographs after scanning the negatives. Some people think that the scenes could only have been conjured up through postproduction artifice. However, I have always found that with quite endless amounts of patience and luck, the natural world will eventually, unexpectedly provide you with something far better than your imagination -courtesy of Photoshop or the equivalent could come up with.”

Brandt does not use telephoto lenses because he believes that being close to the animals makes a huge difference in his ability to reveal their personalities. 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.” Sometimes it can take weeks for Brandt to get a single photograph, but it is this patience that allows him to be able to get close enough to the animals he is photographing and capture them as individuals, often times just weeks before they are killed by poachers.

About

Nick Brandt’s works have been acquired and exhibited by prominent collections including, Fotografiska Museum, Sweden; Dunkers Kulturhus Museum, Sweden; Preus National Museum of Photography, Norway; and The Museum on The Seam, Israel, among others. Four monographs of Nick Brandt’s work have been published: On This Earth (Chronicle Books, 2005), A Shadow Falls (Abrams, 2009), On This Earth, A Shadow Falls (Big Life Editions, 2010/ Abrams, 2012) and Across The Ravaged Land (Abrams, 2013).

As a response to what he was witnessing, in 2010, Nick Brandt and conservationist Richard Bonham, co-founded Big Life Foundation. Relying on a grass-roots effort and inclusive community collaboration, Big Life Foundation has already achieved a dramatic reduction in poaching  of animals in the Amboseli ecosystem, a nearly two-million acre covering the Kenya/Tanzania border. The aim of Big Life Foundation is not only to apprehend poachers but to protect the entire ecosystem, drawing on community collaboration to support conservation, which in turn can support and sustain the community.

The Books

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Nick Brandt depicts the animals of east Africa with an intimacy and artistry unmatched by other photographers who choose wildlife as their subject. He creates these majestic sepia and blue-tone photos contrasting moments of quintessential stillness with bursts of dramatic action by engaging with these creatures on an exceptionally intimate level, without the customary use of a telephoto lens. Evocative of classical art, from dignified portraits to sweeping natural tableaux, Brandt’s images artfully and simply capture animals in their natural states of being. With a foreword by Alice Sebold and an introduction by Jane Goodall, On This Earth (2005) is a gorgeous portfolio of some of the last wild animals and a heartfelt elegy to a vanishing world.

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In 2001, Nick Brandt embarked on an ambitious photographic project, a trilogy of books memorializing the vanishing natural grandeur of East Africa. Focusing on some of the world’s last great populations of large mammals -elephants, giraffes, lions, gorillas, and their kin- he created two of the new century’s most influential photographic books: On This Earth (2005) and A Shadow Falls (2009). His iconic portraits of these majestic animals express an empathy usually reserved for human subjects.

The magisterial On This Earth, A Shadow Falls (2010) collects the most memorable images from Brandt’s first two books, along with their accompanying essays. A testament to the bookmaker’s craft, it is the first volume on Brandt’s work to capture the superb quality of his remarkable, large-format prints, which are notable for their velvety blacks and tonal subtleties. At 15 x 13 inches it is substantially larger than his previous books, and it comes in a handsome cloth binding with a tipped-in plate on the front.

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Across the Ravaged Land (2013) is the third and final volume in Nick Brandt’s trilogy of books documenting the disappearing animals of eastern Africa. The book offers a darker vision of this world, still filled with a stunning beauty but now tragically tainted and fast disappearing at the hands of man. In addition to a range of starkly powerful animal portraits, Brandt introduces some new themes, as humans make an appearance for the first time. He also contributes two essays summing up his photographic odyssey, which has taken more than a decade of intensive work to complete.