Nick Brandt: This Empty World
The damnation of animal life, the debasement of human life, the destructive conjugality between the two: it is not just the animals who are the victims of environmental devastation, but also the humans now inhabiting these landscapes. – Nick Brandt
Nick Brandt’s most recent effort to call attention to the “escalating destruction of the natural world at the hands of humans” is a powerful project. This Empty World was recently released as a book under the same title by Thames and Hudson and on exhibition in New York at the Edwynn Houk Gallery, through April 20th and the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles on display until April 27th, 2019.
The images in This Empty World are panoramic composites of two source photographs, presenting “the wild animals and the people as equal victims in the impending annihilation of the natural world. His photographs show an earth where, overwhelmed by runaway development, there is no longer space for animals to survive. The people in the photos are also swept along by the relentless tide of “progress.”
The images were photographed on Maasai community land in Kenya. After the sets were removed and all their elements recycled with almost zero waste, no evidence of the shoot now remains in the landscape.
Every image in this powerful and haunting series is a combination of two moments in time, captured weeks apart, almost all from the exact same locked-off camera position. The starting point of each composition is always the animal. Initially, a partial set is built and lit. Weeks, even months follow, whilst the animals that inhabit the region become comfortable enough to enter the frame.
Once the animals are captured on camera, Brandt and his team build sets in the precise location of the original photograph now depicting the encroachment of humans – gas stations, highway and bridge construction sites, and bus stations – that are invading the East African landscape. A second sequence is then photographed with the completed set, populated by a large cast of people drawn from local communities and beyond.
To see the images larger, go here.
Nick Brandt (b. 1964, London) studied painting and film at St. Martin’s School of Art, London. He moved to California in 1992. In 1995, Brandt became aware of the terrible devastation of the landscape and fauna of East Africa, leading him to make his seminal trilogy On This Earth (2000-04), A Shadow Falls (2005-08), Across the Ravaged Land (2010-12). In 2010, Brandt co-founded the the Big Life Foundation to contribute to the conservation of the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem. The escalating destruction caused by overpopulation, urban expansion, and intensified poaching in East Africa inspired the artist to create the pivotal series Inherit the Dust (2016), which constituted the artist’s most recent exhibition at Edwynn Houk Gallery prior to This Empty World.
Brandt has exhibited worldwide, including solo exhibitions at Fotografiska, Stockholm; Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow; Preus National Museum of Photography, Oslo; and the National Museum of Finland, Helsinki. The artist lives and works in California.
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