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in focus gallery, B. Arnold : Nick Brandt : The Day May Break, chapter 1 – 3


The in focus gallery, B. Arnold in Cologne, presents Nick Brandt: The Day May Break, an ongoing global series portraying people and animals that have been impacted by environmental degradation and destruction.

Chapter One was photographed in Zimbabwe and Kenya in 2020, Chapter Two in Bolivia in 2022. The people in the photos have all been badly affected by climate change, from extreme droughts to floods that destroyed their homes and livelihoods.

The photographs were taken at several sanctuaries and conservancies. The animals are almost all long-term rescues, victims of everything from habitat destruction to wildlife trafficking.

These animals can never be released back into the wild. As a result, they are almost all habituated to humans, and so it was safe for human strangers to be close to them, photographed in the same frame at the same time.

The fog is symbolic of a natural world now rapidly fading from view. Created by fog machines on location, it is also an echo of the smoke from wildfires, intensified by climate change, devastating so much of the planet. However, in spite of their loss, these people and animals are the survivors. And therein still lies possibility.

SINK / RISE, the third chapter of The Day May Break, focuses on South Pacific Islanders impacted by rising oceans from climate change. The local people in these photos, photographed underwater in the ocean off the coast of the Fijian islands, are representatives of the many people whose homes, land and livelihoods will be lost in the coming decades as the water rises. Everything is shot in-camera underwater.

“Faced with a seemingly impossible task, Nick Brandt has created a profoundly original body of work, one that represents an entirely new approach to climate-conscious photography.

Although they are several meters below the surface, the subjects of Brandt’s mesmerizing photographs do not float or swim. Incredibly, they sit on sofas, stand on chairs, use seesaws, and pose in ways they might on land. The effect is otherworldly, as though the familiar laws of physics have stalled in this strange, liminal zone between land and sea.”

Despite the surreal, semi-theatrical settings in which these portraits occur, Brandt’s images are direct, uncluttered, and free from distractions. This combination of ambitious fantasy and exquisite restraint is a signature of Brandt’s work rarely seen elsewhere.

The photographs comprising SINK / RISE are remarkable in their ability to be simultaneously approachable and enigmatic, to be political and inclusive. They invite us to linger, to look harder, and to go deeper. With every return, there is something new to discover— within the images or within us. With the portraits in SINK / RISE, Brandt gives us a vital means of considering what we all stand to lose.” (Excerpts from the foreword to the book Chapter 3, Sink/Rise by art writer Zoe Lescaze.)

“Nick Brandt is an artist and witness who seizes bleak and desperate fates, and by some mystery and alchemy, transmutes these into a gesture of poignant and painful beauty.” (Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, from the Foreword to The Day May Break, Author of Dust and The Dragonfly Sea.)

“A landmark body of work by one of photography’s great environmental champions. Showing how deeply our fates are intertwined, Brandt portrays people and animals together, causing us to reflect on the real-life consequences of climate change. Channeling his outrage into quiet determination, the result is a portrait of us all, at a critical moment in the Anthropocene.” (Phillip Prodger, curator, author, photo historian, former Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London)


Nick Brandt : The Day May Break, chapter 1 – 3
from March 23, 2024 to August 15, 2024
in focus gallery, B. Arnold
Hauptstrasse 114
50996 Köln, Germany

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