Remember when you were little and you first started to think about other places in the world? For me growing up, and I imagine many others, David Attenborough documentaries were a conduit for that experience. I was always more interested in the natural world than in people or civilizations. And then every animal seemed Aesopian and my favourite country or continent was often chosen based on its wildlife.
But it wasn't just about the animals and geography, it was also about the magic of the capture. Each one of those documentaries seemed to witness something that hadn't been caught on film before, to break new threshold in camera technology working in extreme environments, at night or underwater. Even as we sat in our living rooms, the sense of seeing something fresh and new was palpable and the knowledge that somebody was there capturing it for us made the watching even more vicariously thrilling.
There's something about Nick Brandt's wildlife photographs that recall that very childlike wonder. His animal portraits remind me of the staged taxidermy displays at the Natural History Museum, in all their impossible stillness. But also of those moments of first grasping the weight, heft, speed, danger of wildlife through the TV screen. Of briefly becoming involved in one elephant's march or a lion's hunt, straining entirely for that animal to simply survive.
All images via Hasted Kraeutler on 1st Dibs
Official site of Nick Brandt