Christie’s Paris presents Photographs on 29 June 2021 with two stellar photographs that lead the sale. Amongst all the big names in the world we have Nick Brandt and Bastiaan Woudt.
Nick Brandt’s Elephant Drinking
Nick Brandt began his career directing music videos and it was during the filming of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song in Tanzania that he was inspired to pay homage to the animals that he discovered there, and that had left such a lasting impact on him. In 2001 Brandt began an ambitious photographic project to capture the disappearing natural magnificence of East Africa and the animals that inhabit it. Using his photography to raise awareness of the threats to wildlife in this area, Brandt sought to project the personalities of these wild animals in print. Deciding not to use telephoto or zoom lenses for his works, Brandt’s close proximity to his subjects imbues his works with a rare sense of intimacy and Elephant Drinking, Amboseli, 2007, one of the most striking examples of the series.
Elephant Drinking, Amboseli, 2007 by Nick Brandt
Courtesy Atlas Gallery
This work was part of his historic exhibition Inherit The Dust, Brandt in which he re-envisioned his animal portraits, installing them as life-size panels in the environments that the animals once inhabited. Elephant Drinking is stunning in size and scope, but also incredibly imperial in capturing the beauty and magnitude of such a gorgeous animal even as the image reminds us of an impending social and environmental crisis.
Brandt explained in his introduction to Inherit the Dust, “I conceived this project…to photograph life-size panels of animals in locations where they used to roam but, as a result of human impact on the environment, no longer do.” He continues, “In many of those places, however, even the recent absence of animals in a landscape can still appear relatively undramatic. Of course, it’s only when you know what was there before that the loss is more keenly felt: the herds of elephants, giraffes and gazelles that not so long ago quietly moved across the plains and amongst the acacia trees, the heart-stopping sound of lions roaring on the still air at dusk and dawn. All deathly silent now.”
This epic image of the lone elephant drinking dramatically illustrates what once was, and has now become a distant past. According to Brandt the animals have become ghosts in their former landscapes and are victims of illegal poaching, human expansion, overpopulation, and the environmental and social stresses of economic development. The image serves as a call to action, a startling realization of the social and environmental price of human expansion.
Bastian Woudt’s Thula
Bastian Woudt’s surreal portrait of a profile of an African model echoes the beauty of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the present work, Bastiaan Woudt has photographed model Thula Nuka in profile, her gaze commanding as she confidently occupies the frame. ‘This shot of Thula was one of the last shots of the day, just before we wanted to wrap up the shoot and go home,’ he recalls. ‘It’s one of those moments where everything just falls in to place.’ A self-taught photographer, Woudt has developed his distinctive monochromatic style through experimentations in both in-camera and post-production techniques. Woudt’s bravura insignia of his style has made him world famous. His black and white images are studies in evocative elegance, in which textural tones cohere into finely balanced sculptural nuances.
Thula Alkmaar , 2017 Bastiaan Woudt
Courtesy Atlas Gallery
A hat is placed on the top of a head, as if about to take off; The trick of revealing only a partial profile creates a surreal portrait that invites the viewer into its maw. Woudt succeeds in giving a contemporary twist to a classical signature/treatment .
His goal in this entire series of portraits was to create an abstract image in which a sign of humanity plays an important role’, Bastiaan Woudt explains. ‘By largely “hiding” the models you create a distance, but by adding a human aspect, such as a hand or silhouette of a face, it remains tangible and recognisable.’ A self-taught photographer, Woudt has developed his distinctive monochromatic aesthetic through experimentations in both in-camera and post-production techniques.
Drawing inspiration from classic black-and-white photographs by 20th century masters Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, he aims to capture the essence of analogue photography, which he sees as ‘dynamics, movement, imperfection, feeling’, through digital means. The Dutch artist has published three photobooks to date and has exhibited his work in various cities worldwide, including Amsterdam, Paris, New York and Shanghai since 2014.
Bastiaan Woudt has a longstanding fascination with the African continent and photographing the Ugandan countryside, where the Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation supports local drinking water projects, thus was a dream coming true. Bastiaan Woudt went to visit Mukono (Uganda) in October 2017. There, in addition to a commission for the Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation, Bastiaan Woudt was given the opportunity to make his own work. In the short time of this journey, he admirably succeeded to connect with the people of Mukono. This resulted in a wide range of impressive monochrome (b/w) portraits, and surreal impressions of the local landscapes.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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