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NICK BRANDT USES his moody portraits of elephants, giraffes, and lions to call attention to Africa’s vanishing megafauna. His latest series, Inherit the Dust, imagines these beautiful creatures wandering landscapes they’ve long since been driven out of.

The series, compiled in a photo book of the same name, features life-size portraits of the animals looming in sweeping panoramas of garbage dumps, highway underpasses, railways and construction sites in Kenya. The jarring and powerful imagery is part of Brandt’s lifelong dedication to highlighting the plight of Africa’s increasingly threatened wildlife.

Brandt, who’s spent 15 years working in Africa, is as much an activist as he is a photographer. Five years ago he co-founded Big Life Foundation, a nonprofit that safeguards two million acres of land from poachers by hiring rangers from nearby communities. Inherit the Dust was inspired by the changes he saw sweeping across the landscape, like illegal logging predicted to eliminate some 30 million acres by 2030. “I just couldn’t get over how fast the natural world in Africa was being wiped out,” he says. “I tend to be quite pessimistic, but this was worse than even I had imagined. I kept thinking about all these places where these animals had once roamed but no longer did.”