Animal magic

Nick Brandt’s poetic and political African photos at Atlas Gallery

LION IN SHAFT OF LIGHT, MAASAI MARA, 2012
LION IN SHAFT OF LIGHT, MAASAI MARA, 2012 | Image: © Nick Brandt, courtesy of Atlas Gallery, London

Photographer Nick Brandt’s remarkable animal portraits are among the most collectable of contemporary black-and-white images, regularly fetching six-figure sums at auction. Shot exclusively in Africa, his evocative photographs offer a moving testament to the challenges faced by the wild animals and natural landscapes of the continent. Now, the third and final part of a project that has taken Brandt more than a decade to complete goes on show in a selling exhibition (with prices from £3,500 to £70,000) at Atlas Gallery’s Cork Street premises in London. It ties in with the publication of the third book in Brandt’s photographic trilogy, which, like the exhibition, is called Across the Ravaged Land (Abrams & Chronicle Books, £40).

THE TWO ELEPHANTS, AMBOSELI 2012
THE TWO ELEPHANTS, AMBOSELI 2012 | Image: © Nick Brandt, courtesy of Atlas Gallery, London
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Like the previous collection of images, there are powerful animal portraits and epic landscapes that Brandt has recorded on medium-format black-and-white film without using a telephoto or zoom lens. The results are surprisingly intimate, with graphic close-ups of animals that are akin to studio portraiture (for example, Lion in Shaft of Light, Maasai Mara, 2012, edition of 25, of which only 10 are still available, in first picture; and The Two Elephants, Amboseli, 2012, edition of 37 in three sizes, in second picture). For the first time, Brandt has included humans in some shots, including rangers holding tusks of elephants killed for profit by poachers (Line of Rangers with Tusks of Elephants Killed at the Hands of Man, Amboseli, 2011, edition of 37 in three sizes, only 15 of which are still available, in third picture). Meanwhile, hunters’ trophies are displayed looking out over lands where they once roamed freely.

LINE OF RANGERS WITH TUSKS OF ELEPHANTS KILLED AT THE HANDS OF MAN, AMBOSELI 2011
LINE OF RANGERS WITH TUSKS OF ELEPHANTS KILLED AT THE HANDS OF MAN, AMBOSELI 2011 | Image: © Nick Brandt, courtesy of Atlas Gallery, London
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It would be hard not to be moved by Brandt’s visual account of this increasingly fragile world. And many collectors clearly do respond. “This exhibition comes at a time when each photography auction seems to set a new record for Brandt’s work,” says Atlas Gallery’s owner Ben Burdett. “At his last London opening in 2009 some works sold out before the exhibition had even opened, many to avid collectors and loyal fans of his work. We’re preparing ourselves for something of a feeding frenzy this autumn.”

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