Mind If I Borrow Your Mind’s Eye?

12 Jan

If Africa’s wildlife had an attic,

You probably wouldn’t find much, at least anything bearing evidence of its past inhabitants, except for an old photo album. There, held between its binding caked with dust layers, are pages of family portraits. Though marked with scattered age spot kisses, generations of poise remain unaffected by time.

Chances are, Nick Brandt was the one who photographed them.

Elephant Mother & Two Babies, Serengeti, 2002 © Nick Brandt

Brandt, whose photography is solely dedicated to celebrating the fleeting wildlife of Africa, didn’t always have the wild kingdom’s most exotic caught in his frame. Instead, he began his career in the Concrete Jungle, directing award-winning music videos for some of music’s most elite, such as Moby, Jewel, and the late Michael Jackson, whose video changed everything for Nick Brandt, the director[1].

In 1995, Nick Brandt found himself in the East African country Tanzania, which also happened to be the location of Michael Jackson’s music video, “Earth Song.” Jackson’s forthright concept aimed to bring global awareness towards environmental and animal welfare, and one of the first to be affected by its message was Brandt, himself. The result that left East Africa after the video’s wrap was not just an award-winning music video for Michael Jackson, but a change of career for newly-inspired Nick Brandt[1].

Old Chimp Portrait with Hand II, Mahale, 2003 © Nick Brandt

Since 2000, Nick Brandt has been creating visual masterpieces by taking photographs of Africa’s famous wildlife inhabitants, such as elephants, lions, and chimpanzees- just to name a few. In capturing images of Africa’s most celebrated, and most threatened, wild animals, Brandt’s artistic approach is less like the style of a National Geographic documentary, and more like a family-run portrait studio.

Lion Before Storm- Sitting Profille, Mas Mara 2006 © Nick Brandt

One method Brandt is most-known for in achieving the level of intimacy held by his wild subjects is refusing to use a telephoto lens, an otherwise common tool used by wildlife photographers[1]. This forces Brandt to be up close and personal with his subjects. In the afterword of On This Earth, the first of a three-part book trilogy displaying his works, Brandt explains what he strives to achieve in photographing East Africa’s endangered species:

“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 […] The photos are my elegy to these beautiful creatures, to this wrenchingly beautiful world that is steadily, tragically vanishing before our eyes.”

-taken from Afterword of Nick Brandt’s On This Earth, released in 2005

Elephant with Exploding Dust, Amboseli, 2004 © Nick Brandt

Besides his first release On This Earth in 2005, Nick Brandt has also released his second book, A Shadow Falls, in 2009. Brandt’s third book is said to be released in 2013[1]. In September 2010, Nick Brandt created the Big Life Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems[2].


Lioness Looking Over Plains, Maasai Mara, 2004 © Nick Brandt

Though the rest of us may never be able to experience these magnificent subjects thriving the way Nick Brandt does, we can join in his journey to bring global awareness of the threats towards their existence, in hopes to preserve the promise of future generations of African wildlife’s family photo albums. –DC

For more of Nick Brandt and his projects, visit his website, NickBrandt.com

To learn more about the Big Life Foundation, visit BigLifeAfrica.com

Sources:[1], [2]


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