Few photographers have ever considered the photography of wild animals (as distinctly opposed to the genre of Wildlife Photography) as an art form. The emphasis has generally been on capturing the drama of wild animals IN ACTION, on capturing that dramatic single moment as opposed to simply animals in the state of being.
I’ve always thought this something of a wasted opportunity. The wild animals of Africa lend themselves to photographs that extend aesthetically beyond the norm of 35mm-color telephoto wildlife photography. And so it is, that in my own way, I would like to yank the subject matter of wildlife into the arena of fine art photography. To take photographs that transcend what has been a largely documentative genre.
Aside from using certain impractical photographic techniques, there’s one thing I do whilst shooting that I believe makes a big difference: I get extremely close to these very wild animals, often within a few feet of them. I don’t use telephoto lenses. This is because I want to see as much of the sky and landscape as possible – to see the animals within the context of their environment. That way, the photos become as much about the atmosphere of the place as the animals. And being that close to the animals, I get a real sense of intimate connection to them, to the specific animal in front of me. Sometimes a deliberate feeling that they’re almost presenting themselves for a studio portrait.
Why the animals of Africa in particular? And more particularly still, East Africa?
There is perhaps something more profoundly iconic, mythical, mythological even, about the animals of East Africa, as opposed to say, the Arctic or South America. There is also something deeply, emotionally stirring and affecting about the plains of Africa – the vast green rolling plains punctuated by the graphically perfect Acacia trees.
My images are unashamedly idyllic and romantic, a kind of enchanted Africa.
They’re my elegy to a world that is steadily, tragically vanishing.
Nick Brandt April 2004
[Via] Young Gallery