Three years after the conclusion of his trilogy, On This Earth, A Shadow Falls Across the Ravaged Land, Nick Brandt returns to East Africa to photograph the escalating changes to the continent’s natural world. In a series of epic panoramas, Brandt records the impact of man in places where animals used to roam, but no longer do. In each location, Brandt erects a life size panel of one of his animal portrait photographs, setting the panels within a world of explosive urban development, factories, wasteland and quarries.
The people within the photographs are oblivious to the presence of the panels and the animals featured in them, who are now no more than ghosts in the landscape. Some of the animals in the panels appear to be looking out at these destroyed landscapes with sadness, as if lamenting the loss of the world they once inhabited. By the end, we see that it is not just the animals who are the victims in this out of control world, but also the humans.
The panoramas constitute 2/3 of the book. The final third features portraits of the animals that were featured in the life-size panels, the kind of unique emotional animal portraiture for which Brandt is recognized. Brandt contributes two essays: The first deals with the crisis facing the conservation of the natural world in East Africa, and the work of Big Life Foundation, the non-profit he co-founded in 2010, is doing to protect a critical part of it. The second essay is a behind-the-scenes description of the elaborate production, with accompanying making-of photos.
“Nick Brandt’s ravishing portraits of African animals are like premonitory memorials, taken to aid the cause of staving off extinction. In Inherit the Dust, his astonishing panoramas of those portraits – installed as life-size panels in industrial and urban wastelands that have trampled the animals’ habitats – are a jolting combination of beauty, decay, and admonishment. The result is an eloquent and complex ‘J’accuse,’ for the people are as victimized by ‘development’ as the animals are. The breadth, detail, and incongruity of Brandt’s panoramas suggest a collision between Bruegel and an apocalypse in waiting.”
—Vicki Goldberg, Art Critic, Author