Calcified Animals Photos by Nick Brandt

English photographer Nick Brandt took these haunting images of calcified animals on the shoreline of Lake Natron in northern Tanzania for his series, titled 'The Calcified'.

“When I saw those creatures for the first time alongside the lake, I was completely blown away. The idea for me, instantly, was to take portraits of them as if they were alive.”

“I could not help but photograph them. No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake.”

The lake temperatures can reach up to 60 °C (or 140 °F) and and the alkalinity is between pH 9 and pH 10.5 —nearly as high as ammonia, which causes the creatures to calcify, perfectly preserved, as they dry.

“It’s so high that it would strip the ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds. It’s so caustic, that even if you’ve got the tiniest cut, it’s very painful. Nobody would ever swim in this—it’d be complete madness.”

During dry season, when the water recedes, the chemically-preserved carcasses wash up along the shoreline.

“It was amazing. I saw entire flocks of dead birds all washed ashore together, lemming-like. You’d literally get, say, a hundred finches washed ashore in a 50-yard stretch.”

For about three weeks, Brandt worked with locals to collect some of the most finely-preserved specimens.

“They thought I was absolutely insane—some crazy white guy, coming along offering money for people to basically go on a treasure hunt around the lake for dead birds. When, one time, someone showed up with an entire, well-preserved fish eagle, it was extraordinary.”

“...The bodies themselves are exactly the way the birds were found. All I did was position them on the branches, feeding them through their stiff talons.”

All images are © Copyright of Nick Brandt

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Source: smithsonianmag


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