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Artist Talk: NICK BRANDT

  • The Paramount Theater 215 West Main Street Charlottesville, VA, 22902 (map)
Photo © Nick Brandt

Photo © Nick Brandt

Legacy Artist Talk: NICK BRANDT in conversation with Vicki Goldberg

Book Signing with Nick Brandt at the Paramount Theater to follow.

Exhibition: Inherit The Dust McGuffey Art Center, 201 2nd St. NW Charlottesville, VA 22902,
June 3 - 26, 2016

Since 2001, British-born, California-based photographer Nick Brandt has been documenting the vanishing natural world and animals of East Africa through his haunting, majestic portraits of elephants, giraffes, lions, gorillas, rhinos, and other large mammals.

Brandt’s ambitious photographic project, a trilogy of books memorializing the fast-disappearing natural grandeur of East Africa, was shot on medium-format black and white film without telephoto or zoom lenses. This body of work was a combination of epic panoramas of animals within dramatic landscapes and graphic, intimate portraits similar to studio portraiture of human subjects from the early 20th Century.

The trilogy begins with On This Earth (2005), an elegy and unadulterated vision of an African paradise. A Shadow Falls (2009) turns more melancholic, progressing from opening images of an unspoiled lush green world to a more stark vision towards the end, with the trees dead, water gone, the animals vastly reduced in numbers.

Across The Ravaged Land (2013) closes the trilogy, revealing the impact of man’s ever more destructive presence. The work introduces humans in his photography, in the form of lines of rangers on bare expanses holding tusks of elephants killed at the hands of man.

Three years after the somber conclusion of this trilogy, Brandt returned to East Africa to photograph the escalating devastation to the continent’s natural world. In a series of epic panoramas, he 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 animal portrait photographs, setting the panels within a world of explosive urban development and toxic wasteland.

People go about their day within the photographs, seemingly oblivious to the presence of the panels in their midst. The animals depicted are effectively no more than ghosts. Some of the animals in the panels appear to be looking out at these destroyed landscapes with sadness, appearing to lament the loss of the world they knew.

Brandt’s stunning panoramas were published in March in an oversized volume entitled Inherit The Dust (Edwynn Houk Editions, 2016). The book's release coincides with the roll-out of accompanying exhibitions featuring large-scale prints in New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Stockholm -- and Charlottesville, during LOOK3, at the McGuffey Art Center.

In 2010, in response to the rapid escalation of poaching in East Africa, Brandt founded the non-profit organization Big Life Foundation with conservationist Richard Bonham.
Today, multiple fully-equipped teams of Big Life rangers protect 2 million acres straddling Kenya and Tanzania, resulting in a dramatically reduced incidence of killing and poaching of elephants and other wildlife in the ecosystem.  Visit to learn more.

"In Inherit The Dust ... Nick Brandt's astonishing panoramas are a
jolting combination of beauty, decay, and admonishment ...
an eloquent and complex 'J'accuse' ...
 The breadth, detail, and incongruity of Brandt’s panoramas suggest
a collision between Bruegel and an apocalypse in waiting.
 — Vicki Goldberg, art critic, author

"In Inherit The Dust ... Nick Brandt's unvarnished, harrowing but stunning work ...
brings us face to face with a crisis, both social and environmental,
demanding the renewal of humanity itself.
— Kathryn Bigelow, film director, "The Hurt Locker"

Photo © Chehalis Hegner

Photo © Chehalis Hegner

Vicki Goldberg is a respected author of several books and articles on the subjects of photography and its social history. Goldberg's books include The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed Our Lives (Abbeville); Light Matters: Writings on Photography (Aperture), a collection of her essays from 25 years; and The White House: The President's Home in Photographs and History (Little, Brown); as well as editing the anthology Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present (University of New Mexico Press).


Earlier Event: June 16
Later Event: June 17