This Empty World
‘This Empty World’ addresses the escalating destruction of the African natural world at the hands of humans, showing a world where, overwhelmed by runaway development, there is no longer space for animals to survive.
The people in the photos also often helplessly swept along by the relentless tide of ‘progress’.
Each image is a combination of two moments in time, captured weeks apart, almost all from the exact same locked-off camera position:
Initially, a partial set is built and lit. Weeks follow, whilst the animals that inhabit the region become comfortable enough to enter the frame.
Once the animals are captured on camera, the full sets - bridge and highway construction sites, a petrol station, a bus station and more - are built by the art department. In all but a few of the photos, the camera remains fixed in place throughout.
A second sequence is then photographed with full set, and a large cast of people drawn from local communities and beyond. The final large-scale (up to 140x300 cm) prints are a composite of the two elements.
(Note: The images were all photographed on unprotected, inhabited Maasai land, close to Amboseli National Park 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).
Nick Brandt's (English, b. 1964) themes always relate to the disappearing natural world, before much of it is destroyed by mankind.
From 2001 to 2018, he has photographed in Africa. In his trilogy, On This Earth, A Shadow Falls Across The Ravaged Land (2001-2012), he established a style of portrait photography of animals in the wild similar to that of the photography of humans in studio setting, shot on medium format film, attempting to portray animals as sentient creatures not so different from us.
In Inherit the Dust (2016), in a series of panoramas, Brandt recorded the impact of man in places where animals used to roam, but no longer do. In each location, Brandt erected a life-size panel of one of his unreleased animal portrait photographs, placing the displaced animals on sites of explosive urban development, new factories, wastelands and quarries.
Working in color and digital format for the first time, This Empty World (2019) addresses the escalating destruction of the natural world at the hands of humans, showing a world where, overwhelmed by runaway development, there is no longer space for animals to survive.
Brandt has had solo gallery and museum shows around the world, including New York, London, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris and Los Angeles. Inherit the Dust most recently has been exhibited at Multimedia Museum of Art in Moscow and the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki. Born and raised in England, he now lives in the southern Californian mountains.
He is co-founder of Big Life Foundation, fighting to protect the animals of a large area of Kenya and Tanzania.