Nick Brandt

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Nick Brandt
Born1964 (age 56–57)
EducationSaint Martin's School of Art
Spouse(s)Orla Brady (2002–present)

Nick Brandt (born 1964) is an English photographer. Brandt's work generally focuses on the rapidly disappearing natural world, as a result of environmental destruction, climate change and man's actions.[1]

Background and early career[edit]

Born in 1964 and raised in London, England, Brandt studied Painting, and then Film at Saint Martin's School of Art.[2] He moved to California in 1992 and directed many award-winning music videos for the likes of Michael Jackson ("Earth Song", "Stranger in Moscow"), Moby ("Porcelain"), Jewel ("Hands"), XTC ("Dear God") among others.[3]

It was in 1995 while directing "Earth Song"[4] in Tanzania that Brandt fell in love with the animals and land of East Africa.[5] In 2001, frustrated that he could not capture on film his feelings about and love for animals, he realized there was a way to achieve this through photography.[6]


On This Earth[edit]

In 2001, Brandt embarked upon his first photographic project: a trilogy of work to memorialize the vanishing natural grandeur of East Africa.[7]

This work bore little relation to the typical, color, documentary-style wildlife photography.[6] Brandt's images were mainly graphic portraits more akin to studio portraiture of human subjects from a much earlier era, as if these animals were already long dead. "The resulting photographs feel like artifacts from a bygone era".[6] Using a Pentax 67II with two fixed lenses, Brandt photographed on medium-format black and white film without telephoto or zoom lenses. 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."[8]

A book of the resulting photography, On This Earth,[9] was released in 2005 and constituted 66 photos taken from 2000 to 2004 with introductions by the conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall, author Alice Sebold, and photography critic Vicki Goldberg.

In the afterword, Brandt explained the reasons for the methods he used at the time: "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."[10]

A Shadow Falls[edit]

Returning to Africa repeatedly from 2005 to 2008, Brandt continued the project. The second book in the trilogy, A Shadow Falls, was released in 2009 and featured 58 photographs taken during the preceding years.[11]

Writing in the introduction, Goldberg states: "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 elegant as any arranged by Arnold Newman for his human high achievers."[12]

In additional introductions, philosopher Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, explains why Brandt's photographs speak to an increasing human moral conscience about our treatment of animals: "The photographs tell us, in a way that is beyond words, that we do not own this planet, and are not the only beings living on it who matter".[13]

Across the Ravaged Land[edit]

Ranger with Tusks of Killed Elephant, Amboseli, 2011

In 2013, Brandt completed the trilogy On This Earth, A Shadow Falls, Across the Ravaged Land (the titles designed to form one consecutive sentence) with Across the Ravaged Land. A book of the photography was released the same year.[14]

Across the Ravaged Land introduced humans in Brandt's photography for the first time. One such example is Ranger with Tusks of Elephant Killed at the Hands of Man, Amboseli, Kenya 2011.[15] This photograph features a ranger employed by Big Life Foundation, a foundation started by Brandt in 2010 to help preserve critical ecosystems in Kenya and Tanzania.[16] The ranger holds the tusks of an elephant of the Amboseli region killed by poachers.[6]

The Petrified[edit]

In 2013 Brandt released a photographic collection entitled The Petrified in which he collected animal carcasses petrified after drowning in the Lake Natron in Tanzania, as if their frozen carcasses were still perched in real life. The collection was featured in the Smithsonian Magazine.[17]

Inherit the Dust[edit]

Wasteland with Elephant, 2015

In 2014, Brandt returned to East Africa to photograph the escalating changes to the continent's natural world.[16] In a series of panoramic photographs, he recorded the impact of man in places where animals used to roam. In each location, he erected a life size panel of one of his animal portrait photographs, setting the panels within a world of urban development, factories, wasteland and quarries.[18]

A book of the work, Inherit the Dust, was published in 2016.[19] In the book, Brandt writes, "We are living through the antithesis of genesis right now. It took billions of years to reach a place of such wondrous diversity, and then in just a few shockingly short years, an infinitesimal pinprick of time, to annihilate that."[20]

Writing in LensCulture, editor Jim Casper stated: "The resulting wall-size prints are impeccably beautiful and stunning, as well as profoundly disturbing. They convey the vast spaces and light of contemporary Africa with a cinematic immersion and incredible detail. When standing in front of his images, the viewer is transported into the scenes – sometimes with wonder and awe and joy, and other times with overwhelming sadness, despair and disgust."[21] Photography critic Michelle Bogre further noted: "Nick Brandt’s new photographic work, Inherit the Dust, is his visual cry of anguish about the looming apocalypse for animals habitats in Africa... The resulting images are simultaneously beautiful and horrifying, because they illustrate the irreconcilable clash of past and present".[22]

This Empty World[edit]

Brandt's next project, This Empty World, was released in February 2019. The series was published in book form by Thames & Hudson.[23] This new project, "addresses the escalating destruction of the African natural world at the hands of humans, showing a world where, overwhelmed by runaway development, there is no longer space for animals to survive. The people in the photos also often helplessly swept along by the relentless tide of 'progress.'”[24]

Representing a thematic and technical evolution, the series required Brandt to develop and perfect a demanding new process. The Brooklyn Rail described it as:

An ambitious undertaking, the project required six months to complete, and necessitated the building of large sets and night shoots amid relentless dust-storms. Initially, partial sets were constructed on Maasai land—one of the few places where animals and humans still coexist—and motion-activated cameras hidden from view. After many weeks, the animals became comfortable enough to enter these strange domains, triggering the camera as they did so. The requisite next-step involved completing the set—a petrol station for example or a highway—and enlisting a cast of local residents to populate each scene, before taking the second image, almost always from the same position as the first. The final photograph is created from a composite of both images; producing scenes in which large mammals appear lost within a human-dominated milieu.[25]

Says Brandt, "People still think the major issue with the destruction of wildlife in Africa is poaching, but especially in East Africa it's no longer the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the population explosion that is happening. With that comes an invasion of humanity and development into what was not so long ago wildlife habitat."[26]

The resulting large-scale prints (up to 60x130 in / 140x300 cm) were exhibited in near-simultaneous exhibitions in London (Waddington Custot), New York (Edwynn Houk Gallery), and Los Angeles (Fahey/Klein Gallery).[27]

Big Life Foundation[edit]

In September 2010, in urgent response to the escalation of poaching in Africa due to increased demand from the Far East,[28] Brandt founded the non-profit organization Big Life Foundation, dedicated to the conservation of Africa's wildlife and ecosystems.[29]

With one of the most spectacular elephant populations in Africa being rapidly diminished by poachers,[30] the Amboseli ecosystem—which straddles both Kenya and Tanzania—became the foundation's large-scale pilot project.[31]

Headed up in Kenya by conservationist Richard Bonham,[32] multiple fully equipped teams of anti-poaching rangers have been placed in newly built outposts in the critical areas throughout the more than 2-million-acre (8,100 km2) area.[33] This effort has resulted in a dramatically reduced incidence of killing and poaching of wildlife in the ecosystem.[citation needed]

Big Life Foundation now employs several hundred rangers protecting approximately 2 million acres of ecosystem.[34]


  • Nick Brandt, On This Earth (Chronicle Books, 2005)[35]
  • Nick Brandt, A Shadow Falls (Abrams, 2009).[36]
  • Nick Brandt, On This Earth, A Shadow Falls (Abrams/D.A.P. /Big Life Editions, 2010/2012/2014).[37]
  • Nick Brandt, Across the Ravaged Land (Abrams Books, 2013).[38]
  • Nick Brandt, Inherit The Dust (Edwynn Houk Editions, 2016).[39]
  • Nick Brandt, This Empty World (Thames & Hudson, 2019).[23]

Selected exhibitions[edit]


  1. ^ Agricultural Expansion and Human Population Pressure on Semi-Arid Landscapes Retrieved 15 January 2010
  2. ^ Living on Earth Gallimard L., 21 December 2009. Retrieved 8 January 2010
  3. ^ "Nicholas Brandt". IMDb. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Michael Jackson – Earth Song (Official Video)". Retrieved 9 August 2018 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ Keefe, Alexa. "Iconic Animals 'Return' to Lands They Once Roamed". National Geographic. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Meek, Miki. "In East Africa, Fine Art Meets Conservation". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  7. ^ Triplett, Brian. "Elegiac call of the wild". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  8. ^ Hope, Terry. "Pro File: Nick Brandt" (PDF) (July 2006). Professional Photographer.
  9. ^ Brandt, Nick (29 September 2005). On This Earth: Photographs from East Africa. ISBN 9780811848657. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  10. ^ Afterword, from On This Earth. Retrieved 11 January 2010
  11. ^ A Shadow Falls. September 2009. ISBN 9780810954151. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  12. ^ Vicki Goldberg, Introduction, On This Earth. Retrieved 11 January 2010
  13. ^ Peter Singer, Foreword, A Shadow Falls Retrieved 11 January 2010
  14. ^ Epstein, Robert. "Nick Brandt: End of Eden" (PDF). The Independent (20 October 2013). Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  15. ^ Davidson, Barbara. "reFramed: In conversation with Nick Brandt". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  16. ^ a b Hawk, Steve. "Activist or Artist?" (PDF) (March–April 2014). Sierra. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  17. ^ Stromberg, Joseph. "This Alkaline African Lake Turns Animals into Stone". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  18. ^ Bradner, Liesl. "Nick Brandt's 'Inherit the Dust' photos track Africa's tragic urban sprawl". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  19. ^ Teicher, Jordan G. "Where East Africa's Majestic Animals Once Roamed". Slate. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  20. ^ Canby, Peter. "Elephants in Dust". The New Yorker. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  21. ^ Casper, Jim. "Inherit the Dust". LensCulture. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  22. ^ Bogre, Michelle. "Animal Habitats in Life-Sized Urban Panoramas". American Photo. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  23. ^ a b "Nick Brandt: This Empty World". Thames & Hudson. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  24. ^ "Nick Brandt: This Empty World". All About Photo. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  25. ^ Pateman, Daniel. "Nick Brandt: This Empty World". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  26. ^ Hardy, Michael. "PHOTOS SHOW HOW WILDLIFE AND HUMANS COLLIDE ON A GRAND SCALE". Wired. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  27. ^ Dunstan, Marsha. "Nick Brandt : This Empty World". The Eye of Photography. L’Oeil de la Photographie. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  28. ^ Lombard, Louisa. "Dying for Ivory". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  29. ^ Butet-Roch, Laurence. "These Photographers Launched Their Own Foundations to Create Change". Time. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  30. ^ Ciccarelli, Raffaella. "China has banned ivory, but has the African elephant poaching crisis actually been stemmed?". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  31. ^ "The Amboseli Ecosystem". Big Life Foundation. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  32. ^ Vidal, John. "One man's fight against Africa's ivory poachers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  33. ^ Edge, Jane. "Elephant Charities: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". Africa Geographic. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  34. ^ Duggan, Briana. "Anti-poaching efforts in Kenya focus on saving animals – and people too". PRI. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  35. ^ results, search; Goodall, Jane; Sebold, Alice (28 May 2018). On This Earth: Photographs from East Africa. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811848657.
  36. ^ results, search (1 September 2009). A Shadow Falls. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0810954151.
  37. ^ results, search (31 July 2014). Nick Brandt: On This Earth, A Shadow Falls. Big Life Editions/D.A.P. ISBN 978-1938922442.
  38. ^ results, search (24 September 2013). Across the Ravaged Land. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-1419709456.
  39. ^ results, search (21 February 2016). Nick Brandt: Inherit the Dust. Edwynn Houk Editions. ISBN 978-0692520543.
  40. ^ "Nick Brandt, This Empty World". Fahey/Klein Gallery. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  41. ^ "Nick Brandt: This Empty World". Edwynn Houk Gallery. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  42. ^ "Nick Brandt This Empty World". Waddington Custot. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  43. ^ a b "Exhibitions: Inherit the Dust (Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow)". Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  44. ^ "Custot Gallery Dubai | Exhibitions". custotgallerydubai (in French). Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  45. ^ "Nick Brandt – Inherit the Dust". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  46. ^ "Nick Brandt – Inherit The Dust – Exhibitions – Edwynn Houk Gallery". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  47. ^ "Nick Brandt – Exhibitions – Fahey Klein Gallery". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  48. ^ "Nick Brandt 'Inherit the Dust' – CAMERA WORK – Artsy". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  49. ^ "Stadthaus Ulm". Archived from the original on 31 March 2017. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  50. ^ -. "Nick Brandt – Salo Art Museum Roundhouse". Retrieved 28 May 2018.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  51. ^
  52. ^ "PREV: Nick Brandt". Galerie Nikolaus Ruzicska. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  53. ^ "Exhibition Across the Ravaged Land - artist, news & exhibitions -". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  54. ^ "Nick Brandt : Across the Ravaged Land – Hasted Kraeutler – Artsy". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  55. ^ "Nick Brandt – Exhibitions – Fahey Klein Gallery". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  56. ^ "Nick Brandt: Across the Ravaged Land". Atlas Gallery | Fine Art Photography. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  57. ^ "Nick Brandt – On this earth, a shadow falls". Escapisming. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  58. ^ "Nick Brandt/ Dunkers Kulturhus – SFF". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  59. ^ "Nick Brandt : On This Earth, A Shadow Falls – Hasted Kraeutler – Artsy". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  60. ^ "Nick Brandt – On This Earth, A Shadow Falls". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  61. ^ "Nick Brandt: Elephant with Exploding Dust". CAMERA WORK (in German). Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  62. ^ "Nick Brandt 'A Shadow Falls'". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  63. ^ "Nick Brandt – Exhibitions – Fahey Klein Gallery". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  64. ^ "NICK BRANDT – African Elegy". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  65. ^ a b "NICK BRANDT". Retrieved 28 May 2018.

External links[edit]