Wildlife photographer Nick Brandt’s visually stunning Inherit The Dust captures the harsh effects of human development in places animals very recently used to call home.
Brandt has been photographing the wildlife of east Africa throughout his career. Africa, a place where seeing an elephant in your backyard wasn’t uncommon, is now repeating the pattern of Western countries.
“The destruction of these animals, of these African places, is not happening in the past where we grew up, but in our own immediate present,” says Brandt. “Keep going at this pace, and the unique megafauna of Africa will be rapidly gone the way of the megafauna of America and Europe, which was wiped out by far fewer men many centuries ago.”
In his newest project, Inherit the Dust, Brandt made life-size prints of his intimate animal portraits and put them on large panels. The photographs were placed in urban areas where the animal would have once lived if human development hadn’t forced them out. The tension between development and conservation is ongoing, and can be tricky to navigate artistically, especially for a Westerner.
Most African people would say that our Western societies trampled all over our own natural world centuries ago in the interests of economic expansion, and that in Africa, they never got much of a chance to develop economically until now. And so now it is their turn to economically grow. Why should they be deprived of the comfortable, material lives that we have in the West?
In some regards, it’s a reasonable argument. But at what cost? To state the obvious, protection of the environment and economic benefit do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, if you’re smart, they go hand in hand.
The project resulted in a series of epic panoramas that are sure to strike a chord with everyone who views them.
All images copyright of Nick Brandt, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery. To view more of Nick Brandt’s work, information on exhibitions, and where to buy his book Inherit the Dust, visit his site.