Black+White Photography


Zana Briski produces analogue photograms of wild animals – and there’s no hide or long lens in sight. She talks to Graeme Green about the surreal Oscars, spending nights alone in the woods and why every living being is sacred.
Image: ©Zana Briski, Bearogram #4, Borneo, 2019

Back in 2005, Zana Briski was standing on stage at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, as Leonardo DiCaprio read out her name. Her film Born into Brothels, a documentary about the children of prostitutes in Calcutta’s red-light district, who Briski had lived with and taught photography, was the winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

As well as the Oscar, the film received more than 30 other awards, including an Emmy. A career as an esteemed filmmaker lay open to her, but Briski chose another path, dedicating the decades since to wildlife, her first love, including Reverence, a 15-year project photographing and filming praying mantises and other insects around the world.

Born in London in 1966, Briski moved to New York and studied photojournalism at the International Center of Photography. She’s been awarded the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize and the Lucie Humanitarian Award, and also founded the non-profit organisation Kids with Cameras. She’s currently based in New Mexico.

Briski’s latest project, Animalograms, involved her sitting in the woods of the US, Malaysian Borneo and Australia alone at night, waiting for wild animals, from black bears to bearded pigs to tarantulas, to pass by, which she recorded as life-size photograms on large sheets of light-sensitive photographic paper with a gentle flash exposure.


Read our interview with Zana Briski in issue 287 of B+W.

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