What kind of world will we be leaving behind? Will our legacy turn out to be nothing but dust? This summer, the National Museum of Finland offers visitors the chance to see and experience the large panoramic pictures of photographer Nick Brandt (born 1964), which depict the changing environments and endangered animals of East Africa. Born in the United Kingdom, Brandt sees animals as individuals and photographs them using the same portrait technique used to photograph people. By doing so, he has succeeded in capturing the uniqueness of animals.
Brandt originally photographed the animals featured in the Inherit the Dust exhibition – rhinos, elephants, lions, giraffes, chimpanzees and zebras – in 2003‒2012. Later, in 2014, he took life-sized pictures of the animals back to places that used to be the animals’ habitats. The exhibition is produced by the National Museum of Finland in collaboration with Fotografiska. The similar exhibition previously held in Stockholm was one of Fotografiska’s most popular exhibitions ever.
The 27 large, black-and-white panoramic photographs displayed at the National Museum of Finland are shocking, but also inspire discussion about what we could do. The threat of declining biodiversity affects everyone. However, through our own choices we can all contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and the building of a shared future. In 2010, Nick Brandt’s concerns over destruction of the animals and natural world of East Africa led him to co-found Big Life Foundation. The foundation now employs over 200 rangers protecting 1.6 million acres of ecosystem in Kenya and Tanzania.
Brandt’s photographs can be viewed in many ways. When photographing animals, Brandt used a normal camera lens instead of a telephoto lens, requiring him to get up close to his subjects. Taking the resulting portraits to places that have been transformed into quarries, factories and landfills as a result of encroaching human activity and consumption of natural resources leads to a greater understanding of the environmental degradation for the viewer. The photographs also depict how it is not just the habitats of animals that are under threat – people’s living environments are in danger as well. “The photographs are my lament to a world that is inevitably, tragically disappearing,” Nick Brandt said already in 2004.
“The National Museum of Finland’s programme for this year expands our understanding of global issues, the sustainability of our culture and our relationship with our living environment. Nick Brandt’s impressive photographs also roused us to think about how endangered animals are represented in the National Museum’s collections,” states Director General of the National Museum of Finland Elina Anttila. Coinciding with Inherit the Dust is the opening of a smaller exhibition entitled Traces, which explores the relationship between people and animals through museum collections. The exhibition features both natural science specimens received as donations from missions and objects made of animal materials from all continents – from Siberia to Africa and from the Pacific to Europe. Traces illustrates the myriad ways in which, regardless of time and place, people have used animals as driving forces in their cultures.
The two exhibitions feature an extensive side programme, including the Consumption Binge on Saturday 6 April, which will fill the museum with events focused on sustainable development. The Inherit the Dust exhibition can also be explored with the help of the accompanying mobile game Bust the Dust. The interactive and educational game is intended for people of all ages and can be played independently as a quiz as well as interactively in the exhibition space. Players can visit the National Museum of Finland’s website to reserve time slots to play the game, which involves answering questions related to nature and Brandt’s works at the exhibition, where the lighting reacts to right and wrong answers. Only the best players will be able to make nature thrive again.
The Inherit the Dust exhibition’s accompanying photograph publication and the Traces exhibition’s accompanying book can be purchased from the National Museum of Finland’s museum shop.
The Inherit the Dust exhibition produced by the National Museum of Finland in collaboration with Fotografiska will run from 5 April to 1 September 2019. The Traces exhibition produced by the National Museum of Finland will run from 5 April to 4 August 2019.
Further information for the media
Head of Exhibitions Minerva Keltanen, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 (0)295 33 6463
Curator Aino-Maija Kaila, email@example.com, tel. +358 (0)295 33 6362
Traces exhibition: Curator Pilvi Vainonen, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 (0)295 33 6432