copyright 2005 Nick Brandt published by Chronicle Books
First let me say, I am not a big fan of “animal” books. But this is not photographic book of animals in the usual sense.
Oh, yes, Brandt does show us many of the wild animals of East Africa, but in a very different context than the normal safari document. There are also some East African landscapes, some with a hint of bird or two, or perhaps a wide view of a progression of Elephants or others in transit, probably foraging for food.
When Chronicle Books published On This Earth in Fall of 2005 I will have to admit they selected a very intriguing cover photograph, above. I was captivated by it and I could not shake it from my memory. Thus I was easily drawn to pick the book up and quickly browse the contents. But this was not a book that I felt that I had to immediately purchase. You see, it was an animal book.
So why did I keep finding myself remembering one or two photographs and to pick the book up again, not purchase it again, but leaving with still more images in my memory that I could not shake. For Pete’s sake it was an animal book.
But it is a unique book that I came to realize that perhaps was not totally just an animal book. The duo-tone, heavy manipulated black and white photographs are a clue. The photographs are designed to move your eyes to specific regions within the image. The photographs with the narrow depth of field create slices of the subject and landscape with very specific regions in focus.
Look here and see this. Look there and see that.
The photographs chosen for this book are very graphic; the animals are sculptured shapes. Printed in dark contrast with the sepia and icy blue toning to remind you that they are also alive but at risk. I found the occasional blue toned photographs a bit disjointed within the whole but they do save the book from becoming too monochromatic. An interesting design concept, which seems to work.
Brandt’s project is not meant to document either animals or East Africa but to cause you to reflect and think about what was photographed. An area on this Earth which is threatened and perhaps in grave danger.
The book text is provided by Alice Sebold and Jane Goodall.