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Thread: Nick Brandt

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    Dan Henderson's Avatar
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    Nick Brandt

    I am fortunate to have in my possession Nick Brandt's latest book, A Shadow Falls. This book is, in my opinion, full of wonderfully conceived and executed photographs. At first look, I assumed that they had been made with a large format camera, but according to the preface to the book, he works with medium format equipment, and nowhere else in the book are the technical details provided.

    Something about the photographs in this book do not seem straight "medium format " to me. The area of sharp focus is very small in some photographs, and seems to fall off very quickly to very unfocused. It is making me wonder if the negatives were scanned and digitally manipulated. Does anyone know what sort of workflow Brandt uses for his work?


    web site: Dan Henderson, Photographer.com

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    I am not anti-digital. I am pro-film.

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    I saw a thread on photo.net where he categorically denied digital manipulation... but he also stated that he will not reveal his "trade secrets". All he said was that his process was "very manual" and caused him to miss many opportunities.
    Last edited by qtluong; 12-26-2009 at 09:13 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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    Dan.

    You are correct in your assumption that it is not straight medium format. He shoots with a Pentax 67 ll and uses a Wacom tablet and photoshop to manipulate the film. He prints them digitally as well.

    Jamusu.

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    He shoots T-Max 100 in 120, on a Pentax 67 with relatively short lenses. I've read that most of his 'look' is 'in camera', although he does manipulate digitally. 'Giraffe Fan' had the sky added in post, Prints are made with an Epson 9600 printer on Hahnemuhle paper, and for smaller editions (25), printed in Platinum/Palladium at 30x44ins, and priced between £6,000 and £25,000. Source: Photo Pro Magazine, December 09. I love his work.

    Ciaran
    Last edited by SuzanneR; 01-10-2010 at 01:32 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Edited for accuracy

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    IIRC, he said he stitched some negatives together to create a panoramic format image, IIRC. And I believe I read it some time ago in Lenswork, but I could be wrong. It'd be a stretch to say he doesn't manipulate his images, and whether he does it digitally (my guess) or not isn't really the point. What do you think of the work? I've been a bit on the fence about pictures... I find his them too decorative, and they idealize wild animals in a way to make them seem tame.
    Last edited by SuzanneR; 01-10-2010 at 01:37 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Edited for accuracy

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    I have his earlier book, "On This Earth"; and find his work outstanding - some of the images are mesmerizing. The overall image quality is excellent, though I'm put off by those fake borders which are on some for god knows why. Many of the images look like animals sitting for portraits, which is amazing considering that he used a normal lens.
    With the newer book it sounds like he may be going too far away from straight wildlife documentary, which is unfortunate.
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    Suzanne.

    I was a big fan of his work until I learned that most of his post processing was done in photoshop and that he prints digitally. I saw it for the first time in 2006 from an article in Black and White Magazine. I was relatively new to photography at the time and could not tell the difference between a hybrid and traditional print. I was naive and thought that since he was in Black and White Magazine and was using an Pentax 67 ll that he had to have made his images in the wet darkroom.

    Imagine my shock after learning that the only thing analogue about his work are the Pentax 67 ll camera and 120 film that he uses to capture the images. Everything else other than developing the film such as burning, dodging, masking, contrast, shadows, etc.. is done in photoshop and printed digitally. I leaned this from an interview that he gave in 2005 that I read sometime back, but can't remember the link. His work-flow is more hybrid than analogue. I guess I am kind of on the fence as well.

    Jamusu.
    Last edited by jamusu; 12-27-2009 at 08:52 AM. Click to view previous post history.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SuzanneR View Post
    IIRC, he said he stitched some negatives together to create a panoramic format image, IIRC. And I believe I read it some time ago in Lenswork, but I could be wrong. It'd be a stretch to say he doesn't manipulate his images, and whether he does it digitally (my guess) or not isn't really the point. What do you think of the work? I've been a bit on the fence about pictures... I find his them too decorative, and they idealize wild animals in a way to make them seem tame.
    First, thanks to everyone who helped answer my question. The "fake borders" were my first clue that these were not straight analog photographs, and made me start looking closer and thinking harder about them.

    Suzanne, to answer your question, I still think these are stunning portraits of wild animals, even though the luster has dimmed a bit now that I know they are probably as much a product of digital as analog. That is my personal bias. As far as idealizing the animals and making them seem tame, I think that there are many photographs that present animals in their natural environment and exhibiting their natural behavior...at least one such series of pictures in every issue of National Geographic. I think that Brandt has developed a different way of presenting his subjects that reminds me that although these are wild animals, they also feel pain, joy, and many other emotions that we humans do. Brandt articulates this idea well in the opening narrative to the book where he describes the birth of a baby elephant and the very human-like reactions of the other elephants in the group.
    Last edited by SuzanneR; 01-11-2010 at 06:22 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Edited for accuracy


    web site: Dan Henderson, Photographer.com

    blog: https://danhendersonphotographer.wordpress.com/

    I am not anti-digital. I am pro-film.

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    They are striking portraits of the animals to be sure, and as images, far more interesting than the straight documentary (with the possible exception of Nick Nichols work) found in the pages of National Geographic or, say, National and International Wildlife Magazines, but there is something that simply feels false to me about the work. I haven't read the opening narrative, and perhaps he expressed better in words the animals emotions than he ultimately does in the pictures? Although, I find them quite beautiful, that's about all I see in his pictures. I don't see the emotional lives of the animals. And I think it's quite an extraordinary thing he's done... making art pictures in the wild is a unique (and a big D'OH!! why didn't anyone else think of it sooner??? :o ), so I admire the work for that. It's disappointing that they feel so emotionally flat to me, and don't make me think or ask much more about the animals he observed.

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    As someone who grew up around these animals, I find these depictions rather disturbing. It's such a western, Hollywood thing to try to impart human emotions and characters to these animals. They are a lot more authentic than Greenberg's monkeys, but.... any way you slice it, it's not nature if somebody spent time making it look like something other than what it was.

    Of course, you could say that it isn't meant to be nature photography, in which case I have no valid complaint: it is well executed and delivered. It's just that there is an enormous disconnect between the feeling I get from a Brandt lion or elephant and what I felt when confronted by the real thing on their home soil. That's all. Of course, Brandt is under no obligation to reconcile that for me.

    Frankly, I wouldn't even mention Nick Nichols in the same context. His work is very different. Having just attended a sort-of-retrospective of his, I was impressed that not one... not one... of his images were untrue to his subject. It was all very much in camera, though he did have a few words to say and a few examples of the effects of cropping. But that was it. For this reason I wanted to ask if he felt anything disappointing about the redwood stitches (I certainly did), but... why ruin a good evening. The amount of discipline and patience Nichols showed was truly inspiring.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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