Monday, July 17, 2006

On This Earth: Photographs from East Africa by Nick Brandt

Nick Brandt is someone to envy. He is a great photographer, and he obviously gets to visit Kenya and Tanzania frequently. All the evidence is in his book On This Earth: Photographs from East Africa.

The photographs in On This Earth present a different view from most African wildlife photographs. Most obvious to the viewer is that they are black and white or sepia. Brandt has made a curious choice of films for photographing a land of light and color, but it works well. The lack of color forces the viewer to see the faces, expressions, and shapes of the animals. Brandt even enhances the mood with finishing that reminds the viewers of 19th century prints made from glass plates. You wonder if Matthew Brady went to the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater, and other East African game reserves with his big box cameras.

Brandt explains in his Afterword that he never uses telephoto lenses. To get a close up, he gets close to the animals. When you take a second look at them, you realize that he gets very close. The result is that the perspective is always correct and immediate.

There are some incredible moments captured in the photographs. Dust explodes off an elephant in Amboseli. A cheetah seems to fly over the Maasai Mara. A curious young zebra enters a room at Lewa Downs.

On This Earth is Brandt's first book, and I hope there will be more. You can see some of his work at his website

Brandt, Nick. On This Earth: Photographs from East Africa. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2005. ISBN 0811848655

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