Friday, 13 November 2009

Astonishing picture of a threatened world

A Shadow Falls by Nick Brandt

I have a small collection of photography books, but not many. This was one that was reviewed in a photography magazine I'd bought during a work trip last month; it was that publication's book of the month – and it was not difficult to see why.

They published small reproductions of several pictures – they completely bore out the review that in so many other circumstances might have been seen as over the top and gushing: I went straight online to order a copy.

This is beautiful stuff; awesome stuff. Nick Brandt has given himself the task of 'memorialising' the natural grandeur of East Africa. This is neither landscape photography nor wildlife photography, but a combination of both. And it has a feeling of creating a mythology right in front of your eyes.

It would never have occurred to me to photograph such a subject (or such subjects) in monochrome or sepia, but the treatment works so well. Brandt works with film, not digital, and there is an astonishing depth of tone that you still find in top-notch film work.

But what stands out most of all is the dignity of the animals he has captured on film. A dignity – yes, I know that this is anthropomorphism – a dignity that makes you want to weep when you consider the fragility of their world, which faces so many threats, and mostly from our species. The pictures have an astonishing intimacy – you feel drawn right into the heart of the lives of his non-human subjects.

Brandt has certainly done a spot of the old dodging a burning – manipulation of photographs is not some new fangled creation of the digital age – but he has created some utterly astonishing images. The mother cheetah with her cubs on the rock is ... well, it's just beautiful. There is a magnificent empathy here and a great deal of power.

It's nearly Christmas: I don't usually do this sort of thing, but if you like photography in general, or if you like landscape photography and/or wildlife photography or if you like B&W photography, then get this book. It has a special something that is difficult to describe, but which lifts it way above most photography. I simply cannot imagine what it must be like to take pictures of this quality.

All the pictures I've reproduced here can be viewed larger by clicking on them. The book itself is printed on excellent art paper, and comes in large format (39.2cm x 31.2cm) that allows the pictures to be viewed easily.

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