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The Questionnaire : Nick Brandt by Carole Schmitz


Nick Brandt : Capture of Feelings

British photographer, born in 1964, Nick Brandt first studied painting and then film at the Saint Martin School in London. In 1992, he moved to the United States where he directed many videos for artists such as Moby or Michael Jackson.
For the shooting of the video clip  “Earth Song”, Nick went to Tanzania, and fell in love with the land and the animals living in East Africa.

This experience brought him face to face with the programmed disappearance of the wildlife habitat due to the destructive actions of Man. He was deeply affected by the devastation of these lands, which are leading to the extinction of certain species. He tried to capture his feelings in film, but realized that only photography would allow him to express what he wanted.
Thus, in 2001, he began an ambitious photographic project that would last more than 11 years. He produced three magnificent photo books.

Nick Brandt’s work is artistic, creative and visually distinctive, and therefore very recognizable, halfway between individual portraits of animals that attract him for what they look like, for their personality; and their habitat, these great panoramas that disappear in plain sight. He has a strong message to convey through his images that sresonate like a documentary on the deterioration of the animal habitat in East Africa. We can only be subjugated by the beauty of his pictures as they emanate a feeling of power. His framing is very studied, his compositions thoughtful, it necessarily results in a strong aestheticism.

Strongly committed to the animal cause, he created in 2010 with Richard Bonham, one of the most respected environmentalists in East Africa, the Big Life Foundation following a dramatic experience. Its role, to protect a massive area of the Amboseli / Tsavo / Kilimanjaro ecosystem straddling Kenya and Tanzania, and thus fight against poaching and wildlife trafficking, and save the wild habitat of large mammals in East Africa from increasing urbanization.


A key image in your personal pantheon?

Nick Brandt: Underpass with Elephants (Lean Back Your Life is On Track, Kenya, 2015. This needs be seen in large print form to see all the faces, but it’s part of the first series of work that I made, that for me, when seen large, captures what I am trying to say about the world.


The quality needed to be a good photographer?

Nick Brandt: No single quality, and then there’s the definition of ‘good’. But I think this applies to any creative work : making work only for yourself. This doesn’t guarantee it will be good, but if you fail, you at least stayed true to your own vision, not what you thought others would want.


The secret of the perfect image, if it exists? 

Nick Brandt: Who decides what is perfect?


The person you would dream of photographing?

Nick Brandt: A prehistoric man or woman.


An essential photo book?

Nick Brandt: Immediate Family by Sally Mann. My favorite evocation of rural childhood, much imitated but never bettered.


The camera of your beginnings?

Nick Brandt: Pentax 67 II. I love 6×7 medium format. And even though you could use it like an oversize 35mm if you wanted to, I love it for the Pentax for its use with waist level viewfinder.


The one you use actually?

Nick Brandt: It changes with each project and its demands. On The Day May Break, my new project, it was the Fujifilm GFX100 medium format digital. I need to be turned on by my camera, looking down onto the ground glass through a waist level finder. The Fujifilm has an excellent flexible waist level finder that you can switch to portrait framing in a heartbeat. Plus I needed to check what the fog drifting through frame looked like afterwards, as I was many thousands of miles from the nearest film lab.


The best way to disconnect for you?

Nick Brandt: Anywhere in nature without the sound of other people and machinery. Addition of my dogs an essential bonus.


Your greatest quality?

Nick Brandt: I’m far too embarrassed to even attempt contemplating what it might be. Always easier to talk about one’s failings.


The job you would not have liked to do?

Nick Brandt: Working in an animal slaughterhouse. A living hell, watching those beautiful animals end their lives in terror and misery. Physical and mental torture for them.


Your greatest extravagance as a photographer?

Nick Brandt: Spending money I don’t have to obsessively execute each new project.


The values you wish to share through your images?

Nick Brandt: Respect and care for the natural world and the animals being wiped off the face of the planet, and for those humans whose lives are also destroyed by human greed and ignorance.


The city, country or culture you dream of discovering?

Nick Brandt: Actually, I would prefer to spend time underwater with whales that I have never witnessed in person, over any city, country or culture.


The place you never get tired of?

Nick Brandt: Any coral reef with visiting manta rays.


Your biggest regret?

Nick Brandt: There are of course many, but professionally speaking, wasting far too many years directing before switching careers in my late 30’s to photography.


Instagram, Tik Tok or snapchat?

Nick Brandt: None of them. Instagram is for me the world’s worst visual platform : when viewed on a phone, an abomination that destroys any visually detailed image.


Color or B&W?

Nick Brandt: It depends on the project. I always preferred black and white until I made This Empty World, which had to be photographed in color. But most of my favorite photographers work(ed) in black and white.


Daylight or artificial light?

Nick Brandt: Again, it depends on the project.


The most photogenic city according to you ?

Nick Brandt: For me, any northern city shrouded in fog, rain or snow.


If God existed would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?

Nick Brandt: It seems that he/she/it is as cameraphobic as me.


The image that represents for you the current state of the world?

Nick Brandt: Any image of forest burning.


What is missing in today’s world?

Nick Brandt: Humanity in harmony with the natural world and the creatures within it.


And if everything was to be remade?

Nick Brandt: A world in which humans don’t eat animals. And in which Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch never existed (oh boy, this list could run and run…..)

Big Life Foundation :


His Books :

On this Earth  :
A Shadow Falls  :
Across the Ravaged Land  :



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