Portraits from a Parched Land

“My images are unashamedly idyllic and romantic, a kind of enchanted Africa,” Brandt has written. “They’re my elegy to a world that is steadily, tragically vanishing.” Brandt approaches his work in a manner unlike almost any other contemporary photographer of wildlife—not after the “dramatic single moment” of an animal in motion, he refuses to use a telephoto lens. Instead he prefers to get very close to his subjects, using a medium-format camera to photograph them “in the same way I would a human being, watching for the right ‘pose’ that hopefully will best capture his or her spirit.” In these portraits and panoramas we see elephants, zebras, giraffes, and other animals at rest, “in the state of being.” While there are no people in his photographs, Brandt’s introduction describes their impact on this parched landscape, where to provide water for their domesticated cattle, the Maasai depend on the same scarce resources that these wild animals need to survive.


A photograph from A Shadow Falls, showing a lioness feeding her cub, accompanies Tim Flannery’s review essay on animal behavior, “Getting to Know Them,” in the April 29 issue of The New York Review. For more about Brandt’s work, including his earlier collection, On This Earth, see

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