Before They Pass Away
Photographer Jimmy Nelson went on a journey to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document of the last indigenous people in the world, before they pass away.
Photographer Jimmy Nelson travelled the world for 3 years to the most remote places, from Papua New Guinea to Kazakhstan, from Ethiopia to Siberia. Inspired by photographer Edward S. Curtis, who iconically captured the North American Indians over a hundred years ago, he searched for the last tribes to photograph their unique beauty and culture. With the goal to create a body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world, Jimmy Nelson set out to find and photograph the last indigenous peoples. Nelson witnessed their time-honoured traditions, join in their rituals and discover how the world is threatening to change their way of life forever. As trust grew, a shared understanding of the mission developed: the world must never forget the way things were. The encroaching influence of far-reaching technology and communication, the new possibilities of transport and the exponential growth in tourism, all contribute to the disappearance of traditions.
Jimmy Nelson started working as a photographer in 1987. Having spent 10 years at a Jesuit boarding school in the North of England, he set off on his own to traverse the length of Tibet on foot. Upon his return his unique visual diary, featuring revealing images of a previously inaccessible Tibet, was published to wide international acclaim. In early 1994 he and his wife produced Literary Portraits of China. From 1997 onwards Jimmy began to successfully undertake commercial advertising assignments for many of the world’s leading brands. At the same time he started accumulating images of remote and unique cultures photographed with a traditional 50-year-old plate camera. This created the subsequent momentum and enthusiasm for the initiation of Before they Pass Away. For this project, he photographed 34 tribes in 13 trips. The project has got a lot of media attention, both national and international. And from 2015 Jimmy Nelson will return to the tribes to show the photographs and begin Phase 2 of the project: photographing the next 35 tribes