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On This Earth: Photographs from East Africa    by Nick Brandt order for
On This Earth
by Nick Brandt
Order:  USA  Can
Chronicle, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones, wrote the lyrical Foreword to this spectacular (black and white) photo album, On This Earth. She tells us that 'Nick Brandt is documenting a world apart, and, though he knows in his soul it is a world disappearing daily, he is also sending up a song in his grief.' In her Introduction, Jane Goodall tells us that 'Nick has captured the individuality of his animal subjects' and pleas to 'stop our senseless destruction of life and beauty before it is too late.'

This magnificent book opens on a young lionness looking across the plains, an image of possibility. The photo of a Crater Pool at Ngorongoro is simply beautiful. Ostriches seem to be in a chat session, while running. Chimps' eyes are full of wisdom - one feels they have answers, if only we could ask the right questions. Wrinkled rhino and elephant mothers keep their babies close, and a mama giraffe is equally watchful. Another giraffe peers down into a Kenya doorway, while a zebra ambles in. Storks pose high on spindly treetops. An exodus of elephants march across double pages, the one on the cover image stamping up 'Exploding Dust'. A horde of wildebeest swim across a river together. Many of these marvelous creatures (especially the lions) look straight at the camera, a question in their eyes.

In his Afterword, Brandt speaks of instances of 'failure as a photographer' - wildlife experiences that were impossible either to photograph or to forget. He avoids telephoto lenses, but instead gets 'very, very close to the animals' to frame them in their natural context. He speaks of the stirring plains of Africa and their iconic creatures - 'It just gets you. Gets you in the heart, gets you in the gut.' If I didn't already have a copy, this remarkable book would be at the top of my holiday wish list. It reveals the personalities and vulnerability of animals at ease amongst their own in a fast shrinking wilderness. In On This Earth, Nick Brandt demonstrates his impressive talents as an Ansel Adams of African wildlife photography.

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