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Nick Brandt - Behind the Photo: Elephant with Exploding Dust, Amboseli, 2004


photo-eye Gallery Nick Brandt - Behind the Photo: Elephant with Exploding Dust, Amboseli, 2004 In early May, Nick Brandt began posting the stories behind his beautiful and evocative portraits of African animals to his Facebook page. Brandt has graciously given us permission to reproduce them on photo-eye Blog. This week, Elephant with Exploding Dust, Amboseli, 2004.
In early May, Nick Brandt began posting the stories behind his beautiful and evocative portraits of African animals to his Facebook page. Brandt has graciously given us permission to reproduce them on photo-eye Blog.

Elephant With Exploding Dust, Amboseli, 2004 — Nick Brandt


"From the least inspiring of beginnings:
A lesson in keeping your (or more to the point, my) mind open.

It was a cloudless sunny afternoon, the kind that I always regard as un-photographable, when I always feel that there is no point even removing my camera from the case. I have convinced myself that I can only photograph with cloudy sky backdrops, that cloudless blue skies are ugly and devoid of atmosphere. Generally, I am right. However, in this instance I was wrong.

This big bull elephant came ambling by, very relaxed. In spite of that, I couldn’t see any point in photographing him in such terrible midday overhead sunlight, and against such a boring backdrop of clear sky.

But Ninian, my guide, insisted that since we were doing nothing, I should stop being such a pessimistic git and try taking a photograph of the elephant. So we followed him across the bare pans. And as he walked, he dusted himself.

For that split second moment, the effect was quite beautiful. The dust effectively became the clouds in the sky that I always crave. In fact, you could view the photograph from the perspective that the elephant actually looks like a giant walking through the clouds.

This photograph is an anomaly within my work in one other respect. It is a photograph of an animal in action. Typically, I have no interest in taking photographs such as this. I prefer to photograph animals in a state of Being, taking their portraits in an attempt to capture a sense of their personalities, their spirit.

So in two regards, I broke my ‘rules’ here. And I am glad that I did. So the photographic moral of the story: don’t be a pessimistic git. (One that I continue to have not learned, it has to be admitted).

Technical: As usual, the photo was shot on medium format black and white film, without zoom or telephoto."—Nick Brandt



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