Harrowing Photographs Depict East Africa's Dystopian Future

All Images: Nick Brandt

Africa is one of the last great holdouts for charismatic megafauna. But as the human population continues to grow and industrialize, lions, zebras, and elephants are being edged out of existence. A harrowing new series by photographer Nick Brandt makes this transformation visceral.

In Inherit the Dust, Brandt juxtaposes the factories and urban wastelands spreading across East Africa with life-sized portraits of animals that once lived there. The images are not Photoshop tricks, but rather, the photographer created the installations during an extensive four-month travel campaign. From a chimpanzee resting in a dusty alleyway to rhinos trampling through garbage heaps, the series has a tragic beauty that transcends cultural boundaries, cutting to the heart of what it means to live at the dawn of the Anthropocene. It’s a call to action to preserve Earth’s remaining megafauna; the vestiges of a planetary heritage which once existed across Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas.


“Mainly, it’s about all of us,” Brandt writes in an accompanying Inherit the Dust photobook, which is now available for purchase. “Significantly, it’s about the terrifying number of us, and the impact of the very finite amount of space and resources for so many humans.”

Courtesy of Brandt, we’ve shared a few of the series’ stunning photographs below. More of Brandt’s work can be found here. Inherit the Dust exhibitions will take place through April and May in Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Paris, and Stockholm.

‘Alleyway With Chimpanzee’
‘Factory With Chimpanzee’
‘Factory With Rhino’
‘Quarry With Lion’
‘Road to Factory With Zebra’
‘Road With Elephant’
‘Underpass With Elephants’
‘Underpass With Rhino and Egret’
‘Wasteland With Cheetahs and Children’
‘Wasteland With Elephant’
A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Brandt’s ‘Wasteland With Elephant’ image.
‘Wasteland With Lion’
‘Wasteland With Rhinos’

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Maddie Stone

Maddie Stone is a freelancer based in Philadelphia.