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Elegy/Eulogy: A poetic version of an apocalypse

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013 5:00 am | Updated: 5:52 pm, Tue Oct 15, 2013.

A matriarch leads her herd of elephants through the grass in Africa’s Amboseli National Park, their figures diminishing in the distance. This image, which accompanies the opening essay of photographer Nick Brandt’s new book Across the Ravaged Land, can be compared with another photo shot a few years later of a line of rangers, also diminishing in the distance, holding the confiscated tusks of elephants killed by poachers. These two photographs take on added poignancy when one reads in the essay that Marianna, the matriarch, was shot and killed in 2009.

Brandt has spent 12 years photographing wildlife in East Africa, and his images include portraits of elephants playing in the dust, buffalo, giraffes, hyenas, leopards, and lions captured in close-ups so intimate one senses their souls through their eyes. “I loved animals in general as a child,” Brandt told Pasatiempo. “As so often happens as kids grow up, you sort of partly lose your obsession with animals, then it gradually starts filtering back. Going to Africa, there was something about that particular place and those particular animals. There’s so few places left in the world where we can see large numbers of animals in the wild. Even though it’s amazing and moving to come across, say, polar bears in the Arctic or jaguars in the South American jungle, the fact that you’re looking out across the plains, seeing 10 different species of massed animals in your vision is really quite magical.”

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