Nick Brandt, Activist-Photographer: “I Stick with Nature”

The delicate condition of the natural world is vividly brought to life by Nick Brandt, who organized the Big Life Foundation to protect wild animals in East Africa. This British photographer employs a combination of documentary-style with classical fine-art aesthetics to depict disappearing populations.

Nick Brandt, Elephant with Half-Ear, Amboseli (July 2010), Killed by Poachers (August 2010),
from the series Across the Ravaged Land, archival pigment print, 2010. 

Brandt, who has been working in Africa for nearly 10 years, was inspired to change careers after directing Michael Jackson’s Earth Song music video, in Tanzania. Since that time, he has created a series of stunning studies of endangered species in the Amboseli National Park, which was formerly a game reserve in Kenya.  

Members of the animal kingdom–an appropriate association for these majestic creatures–are quickly being decimated by local hunters. Brandt’s very large print of an elephant with half an ear (photographed in July of 2010), underscores the fragility of native populations: the animal was poached the following month.

Nick Brandt, Lion Before the Storm I, archival pigment print, 2006. 

Today, most photographers are willing to use whatever tools are at their disposal to get the shot. Interestingly, Brandt is old school in this regard: “If you are patient enough, what nature eventually gives you is way better and more surprising than what you might have manufactured in Photoshop. So, I stick with nature.”