Across the Ravaged Land by Nick Brandt

Image by Nick Brandt and linked from his website. To view all his works, click on the picture.
Image by Nick Brandt and linked from his website. To view all his works, click on the picture.

Ranger posing with tusks of killed elephant… That’s the image that first caught my eyes when I saw it appearing in the news. So striking, so distinctive, so emotional and so powerful. It had since been on my mind, but sadly I wasn’t able to spare enough time to find out more about this picture and the photographer. Okay, perhaps it was me to blame for forgetting.

Few weeks ago when I was browsing through the pile of books in a local library, I chanced upon this book and instantly my memory was recalled: “Oh, this was the picture that I saw few years ago!” And I still love the picture very much. This time, I grabbed the book immediately and started reading. I don’t want to miss this opportunity again.

Dedicated to the billions of animals, past, present, and future, that have died without reason at the hands of man.

This was quoted at the very beginning of the book. Thereafter were a series of pictures in monochrome, printed on very fine paper which preserved the tone of light and shadow very well. You really have to see it to believe it. It made me appreciate the print, and it made me feel that a picture must really be printed out in order to complete it’s lifecycle. Monochrome enthusiast will surely enjoy the pictures very much.

After reading through this book, there were two things that made me ponder. First is the medium that the photographer chose to complete his project. Upon further research, I found that Nick produced his shots from a Pentax 67 II, yes, it’s a medium format film camera. He took his shots on film and scanned them digitally, followed by the usual darkroom process and tonal adjustment via Photoshop. The reason for him to opt for film instead of digital as a medium was because digital images are “too clinical and perfect”. For his subject matter, perhaps a “clinically clean” image will generate less connection to the story which he would like to tell.

Secondly, posed images. There are quite a number of pictures in this series which were obviously posed (for example, the first picture shown in this post). Loyalist or purist of documentary photography will certainly be unhappy about it as they have always against posed images. To me, I don’t see a problem for posing a picture as long as it conveys the exact message to the story it tells. Well, to be fair, Nick’s work is more of story telling than documentary, and I must say without those posed images, the story may not be complete.

Nick has a couple of other projects which are part of his “On This Earth Trilogy” series, namely “On This Earth”, “A Shadow Falls” and “Across the Ravaged Land”. Another wonderful series from Nick was titled “Inherit the Dust”. Do visit his website to have a look at some of his other works, and do get yourself a copy of his book if you enjoyed them. I would like to thank Nick for bringing us such inspiring pictures, and I’m looking forward to see more works from you in the future. Till then.

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