Nick Brandt: Animal Photography as Art Form

I came accross a beautiful black and white portfolio by the English photographer Nick Brandt. Born and raised in London, he studied Film and Painting at St. Martins School of Art. He started photographing in December 2000 in East Africa, beginning the body of work that is his signature subject matter and style. He no longer directs, devoting himself full time to his fine art photography now. Brandt’s first book of photographs, “On This Earth”, was published in October 2005, by Chronicle Books, with forewords by Jane Goodall and Alice Sebold (author of “The Lovely Bones”). He has had numerous one-man exhibitions between 2004 and 2006, including London, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, Hamburg, Santa Fe, Sydney, Melbourne and San Francisco. He now lives in Topanga, California… Few photographers have ever considered the photography of wild animals, as distinctly opposed to the genre of Wildlife Photography, as an art form. The emphasis has generally been on capturing the drama of wild animals in action, on capturing that dramatic single moment, as opposed to simply animals in the state of being.

In his biography he writes: “The wild animals of Africa lend themselves to photographs that extend aesthetically beyond the norm of 35mm-color telephoto wildlife photography. And so it is, that in my own way, I would like to yank the subject matter of wildlife into the arena of fine art photography. To take photographs that transcend what has been a largely documentative genre. Aside from using certain impractical photographic techniques, there’s one thing I do whilst shooting that I believe makes a big difference : I get extremely close to these very wild animals, often within a few feet of them. I don’t use telephoto lenses. This is because I want to see as much of the sky and landscape as possible–to see the animals within the context of their environment. That way, the photos become as much about the atmosphere of the place as the animals. And being that close to the animals, I get a real sense of intimate connection to them, to the specific animal in front of me. Sometimes a deliberate feeling that they’re almost presenting themselves for a studio portrait. Why the animals of Africa in particular? And more particularly still, East Africa? There is perhaps something more profoundly iconic, mythical, mythological even, about the animals of East Africa, as opposed to say, the Arctic or South America. There is also something deeply, emotionally stirring and affecting about the plains of Africa – the vast green rolling plains punctuated by the graphically perfect acacia trees. My images are unashamedly idyllic and romantic, a kind of enchanted Africa. They’re my elegy to a world that is steadily, tragically vanishing.

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3 thoughts on “Nick Brandt: Animal Photography as Art Form

  1. Nick thanks for sharing your photos. This one in particular is as candid as you can get. It’s almost as if she’s just about to go in one direction or another prior to helping get the pride’s next meal. I’m sharing this w/ my friends w/ a trackback to this page. Have a great day and all the best! – R

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