Book Review: "Inherit The Dust" by Nick Brandt
Image Above: ©Nick Brandt, Book Jacket / Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery. New York.
In Inherit the Dust, Nick Brandt continues his examination of East African wildlife two years after completing his photographic trilogy On This Earth, A Shadow Falls Across the Ravaged Land. In his latest volume of photography, Brandt places physical life-size portraits of African animals in the now-urbanized environments they once inhabited. The black-and-white photographs are drenched in melancholia–they show wild animals in their natural homes, but those homes are no longer fit for their survival.
Image Above: ©Nick Brandt, 'Underpass with Elephant (Lean Back, Your Life is on Track)' (2015) / Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery. New York.
Wide, sweeping panoramic shots show man’s clear hand in changing their natural environments. Humans tend to create, destroy, accumulate–this behavior manifests itself in the photographs as fields of trash, weathered buildings, and railroads. In “Wasteland With Rhinos,” it appears as if a pair of rhinoceroses are emerging from their untainted habitat into a new one. The displayed disconnect between the animals and the more urbanized environments seems less like a separation, and more of an encounter. The worn edges of the inserted life-size portraits signal a past that can never be returned to.
Image Above: ©Nick Brandt, 'Wasteland with Rhinos'& Residents (2015) / Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery. New York.
Brandt’s images are wide and sweeping–occasionally, a fold-out insert is required to view the photo in its entirety. Yet, these photos are bitingly intimate; the painful intersections of past and present are clear, and – crucially – the animals in the photographs are treated like subjects instead of objects to gawk at, or objects to be fearful of. In Brandt’s own words: “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.”