For many years, British photographer Nick Brandt has been documenting the wildlife, animals, landscapes, and the effects of human interaction in Africa. For the Inherit the Dust series shown here, Brandt records the impact of man in places where animals used to roam, but no longer do.

In each location, Brandt erected a life-size panel of a animal portrait (which he had photographed during earlier projects), setting the panels within a world of explosive urban development, factories, wasteland and quarries. He then photographed the billboard-size portrait in the vast chaotic environments of contemporary Africa. So, a photograph of a life-size photograph, all made with black-and-white film, and then printed the size of a small cinema screen.

The resulting wall-size prints are impeccably beautiful and stunning, as well as profoundly disturbing. They convey the vast spaces and light of contemporary Africa with cinematic immersion and incredible detail. When standing in front of his images, the viewer is transported into the scenes — sometimes with wonder and awe and joy, and other times with overwhelming sadness, despair and disgust.

For this article, the images are best viewed as a full-screen, high-resolution slideshow. We also highly recommend the excellent book that includes many more images from this project.

Below, in the embedded videos, the photographer narrates his story, and talks about the concept of this amazing series, as well as what happened behind the scenes, and why it was important to make these “real” photographs, rather than rely on PhotoShop to try to achieve a similar and much easier effect.

The ideas here are thick and layered, nuanced and important. Please take the time to look and listen carefully.

— Jim Casper