#13 : WASTELAND WITH ELEPHANT, 2015
An elephant strides across the savannah towards camera. But where a sea of grass once was, all is human garbage.
The original photo of the elephant is a previously unreleased shot taken in 2008. A beautiful bull with the unlikely name of Little Male. He was speared the year after this photo was taken, but survived, and is hopefully still alive in the Amboseli ecosystem in southern Kenya.
A few hundred kms to the north is this dumpsite on the edge of the city of Nakuru. Elephants would have walked these hills several decades ago, walked across these plains and hills now strewn with garbage.
The people in the photo all live on the edges of the dumpsite, and spend their days scouring through the garbage for anything that they can use or sell. When the garbage trucks arrive, many will search through the garbage for food they can eat right there. I
t’s not just the animals that are the victims of environmental degradation and devastation, but humans also.
As with all the photos in this series, the life size photo of the elephant was printed at my studio in California, and then glued to a giant aluminum and plywood assembled on location. Multiple sandbags had to be used to raise up the panel so that the horizon line in the original photo lined up with the horizon line on the location.
I shot this and a few other panels close by over the course of a week, waiting for the right stormy clouds and accompanying light. One advantage of being there so long is that the local people became completely used to us being there, and just got on with their lives. I wanted it that way - for the people to be oblivious to the presence of the panels and the animals featured in them, who are now no more than ghosts in the landscape.
But not all is doom and gloom. Once up a time, we in the West had these animals where we lived. We blew it, wiped them out, but we still have a chance to protect and preserve the places and those animals where they still live, and at the same time help support local communities, through wide scale employment in nature tourism and wildlife preservation.
Go to biglife.org to learn about the work that Big Life Foundation, the organization I co-founded in 2010, is doing in this regard.
Shot on medium format black and white film with a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, the final panoramic image is constructed of several negatives to capture the wide field of vision, which were pieced together in photoshop.
The photo is published in INHERIT THE DUST (Feb 2016).
The reproduction in the book is 13x27 inches (32cm x 67cm). The book is currently $42 on Amazon here
Signed copies are available here at photoeye for $65.
I would urge you to please buy the giant book, as these website images cannot begin to capture everything going on in the photos (the print at its best size is 120 inches / 300 cm long.)