Born and raised in England, Nick first visited East Africa in 1995 whilst directing Earth Song, a music video for Michael Jackson. Nick fell in love with the place and the animals there, and felt that there was a way to photograph animals in a way that at that time no-one had done before- attempting to portray animals as sentient creatures not so different from us. As a result, Nick decided to switch careers.
Starting in 2001, he embarked upon a decade-long photographic project: a trilogy of books to memorialize the vanishing natural grandeur of East Africa and its escalating destruction. Completed in 2013, the titles of the three books form one consecutive sentence: "On This Earth, A Shadow Falls, Across The Ravaged Land."
Many of the photos over the years were taken in the Amboseli ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania, where in 2010, no longer able to sit back and allow the destruction to continue, Nick co-founded Big Life Foundation with conservationists Richard Bonham. As Nick writes, "There’s little use being angry and passive. Much better to be angry and active."
Since then, the themes in Nick’s photographic series always relate to the destructive impact that humankind is having on both the natural world and now humans themselves too.
In 2015, Nick released “Inherit the Dust,” in which, in a series of epic panoramic tableaux, he records the impact of man in places in East Africa where animals used to roam. In each location, life size panels of his animal portraits are placed within a world of explosive urban development, factories, wasteland, and quarries.
Film director Kathryn Bigelow wrote about this work:
"Nick Brandt’s harrowing but stunning work brings us face to face with a crisis, both social and environmental, demanding the renewal of humanity itself."
In 2019, Nick released “This Empty World.” This new project, addresses the escalating destruction of the African natural world at the hands of humans, showing a world where, overwhelmed by runaway development, there is no longer space for animals to survive. The people in the photos also often helplessly swept along by the relentless tide of ‘progress’.
E.O.Wilson, Theorist, Biologist, Author, wrote about this work:
"The astonishing images in “This Empty World” deliver the emotional shock rarely felt, but urgently needed, to accelerate global conservation.”
In 2021, Brandt released the first chapter of an ongoing global series, The Day Must Break, photographed in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Photographic Historian Philip Prodger summed it up thus:
"A landmark body of work by one of photography’s great environmental champions…….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.”
The second chapter was photographed in Bolivia in 2022, and in 2023, Brandt released SINK / RISE, photographed in Fiji. This third chapter of The Day May Break focuses on South Pacific Islanders impacted by rising oceans from climate change. The people in these photos, photographed underwater in the ocean, are representatives of the many people whose homes, land and livelihoods will be lost in the coming decades as the water rises.
Brandt has had solo gallery and museum shows around the world, including New York, London, Berlin, Stockholm, Shanghai, Oslo, Paris and Los Angeles.
His work can be viewed at nickbrandt.com.