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Introducing: Nick Brandt's Inherit the Dust


photo-eye Gallery Introducing: Nick Brandt's Inherit the Dust Nick Brandt has been making images in East Africa for more than 15 years. In that time the British-born, California-based artist has become a conservation activist for the continent, seeking to bring awareness of the massive changes caused by accelerated urban expansion and industrialization.His latest series, Inherit the Dust, is the artist's most dynamic, emotional, and important work to date.

Quarry with Lion, 2014 – © Nick Brandt

Nick Brandt has been making images in East Africa for more than 15 years. In that time the British-born, California-based artist has become a conservation activist for the continent, seeking to bring awareness of the massive changes caused by accelerated urban expansion and industrialization. His latest series, Inherit the Dust, is the artist's most dynamic, emotional, and important work to date. photo-eye Gallery is proud to feature this work in an exhibition opening Friday June 10th and continuing through July 23rd, 2016.
Ranger with Tusks of Killed Elephannt, Amboseli, 2011
© Nick Brandt

Inherit the Dust picks up where 2013's Across the Ravaged Land left off while injecting a new scale and scope to the already somber tone. For Inherit the Dust, Brandt erects life size panels of his animal portraits placing them among sprawling garbage heaps, quarries, and urban developments where only three years prior elephants, lions, and gazelles freely roamed. For Brandt, "The destruction of the natural world was occurring at an alarming rate — faster than my already pessimistic imagination could have anticipated." Inherit the Dust is the artist/activist's call to action.

“My plan had always been that, throughout the series, the animals in the panels would effectively be ghosts in the landscape,” Brand explains in the introductory essay for Inherit the Dust. “With the animals now killed or driven from their habitat, the people now living within these landscapes would be oblivious to the presence of the animals that used to live there.”

Wasteland with Elephant, 2015 – © Nick Brandt

The images for the panels were selected by Brandt from over a decades worth of contact sheets, and each image was originally deemed unworthy of being released for a variety of reasons. “Sometimes these photos had gone unused for a very simple reason. I had five strong portraits of my favorite elephant of all — a 40 year old Amboseli bull by the name of Craig — but I felt at the time that I could only release two photos of Craig for Across the Ravaged Land. That left three unused portraits for this series,” Brandt writes.

Inherit the Dust  Behind the Scenes on Location

To construct the panels, Brand printed images in California and shipped them to Africa where they were adhered to either wooden or aluminum frames ranging up to 30 feet in length. Crews of more than 20 men wrestled with harsh conditions and uncertain terrain to raise and secure each image on location. Brandt recalls a wasteland where the air was so toxic that crew-members came down with lung infections after only two days of a twelve day shoot.

Inherit the Dust  Behind the Scenes on Location

Overall the bulk of Inherit the Dust was photographed over about a 4 month period, and the longest delays had nothing to do with the challenging locations and conditions. "... When photographing in East Africa, I like my clouds imported from Northern Europe. Clouds (and the light they create) that are sober, gloomy, and wintry. This is one of the main reasons this shoot lasted over three months." Brandt recalls, "Yes, there was a lot of driving between locations, and setting up, but even in the rainy season it’s still Africa. Which means a lot of sunshine. So there was a lot of waiting for the right cloud.” Brandt also spent months scouting the right locations to match the backgrounds of the original images. “The toughest locations to find and align were those portraits with hills in the background. I was on the verge of giving up altogether with the photo of the rhino mother and baby (Wasteland with Rhinos, 2015) when one afternoon walking up an unexplored road at the dumpsite I saw an angle on the hills beyond, and with huge relief and delight, discovered the ridiculously perfect match of contours.”

Wasteland with Rhinos, 2015 – © Nick Brandt

Just like his previous trilogy, Brandt sees Inherit the Dust as a narrative, and imbues the series with a glimpse of hope at the end of the sequence. "...My plan was always that in the final photo in the series, just one person, probably a child, would see the animal in the panel whilst all around no one else did. The setting of the underpass was always the place for this shot. I knew that I wanted the little kid in the foreground as the one human who saw the animals. But I never for a second imagined that this tiny boy would wander into the frame fascinated by these giant elephants and touch them with what appears to be a stick held in his hand. Once again I was the beneficiary of the happenstance of shooting with the panels there on location." (Underpass with Elephants, Lean Back Your Life is On Track, 2015)

Underpass with Elephants, 2015 – © Nick Brandt

Ultimately Inherit the Dust is about more than just declining animal population and habitat. Images like Underpass with Elephants & Glue Sniffing Children and Wasteland with Elephants & Residents clearly ask questions about the effects rampant urban sprawl and rapid change has on the human population of East Africa. As Michael Nichols, former editor-at-large for National Geographic commented for the Los Angeles Times, "[Brandt] keeps evolving as an artist. Something he's done since he's started. He hits a note and keeps hitting it."

All quotations originally appeared in Inherit the Dust or the Los Angeles Times

Inherit the Dust opens this Friday at photo-eye gallery and remains on view through July 23, 2016.


View Inherit the Dust

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Read more about Nick Brandt

View more work by Nick Brandt

For more information and to purchase prints please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly at 505.988.5152 x 121 or anne@photoeye.com


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