Jimmy Nelson - Before They Pass Away

About photography and Jimmy Nelson

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One day when I was walking through Antwerp, I passed a bookstore. One of the books in the window stood out among all the others. It was the book Before They Pass Away by photographer Jimmy Nelson. It was large and expensive book with wonderful color photographs of the indigenous peoples of the world. I went in and bought it immediately. The book is the result of Jimmy Nelson's two years of travelling to visit these remote peoples, who still live in tribal communities. His aim was photograph them in their natural setting.

Jimmy Nelson's book sends a powerful signal to the world, because the continued existence of many of these indigenous peoples is threatened. For a long time we have looked down on their cultures with contempt. We regarded them as savages, living in primitive conditions and bereft even of the basic knowledge of how to grow their own food. We now see them as the world's best ecologists, the possessor of priceless information that we have somehow lost along the way. They live in the tropical rainforests of Central Africa, the deserts of Australia and Namibia, the islands of the Pacific Ocean, the icy wastelands of the Far North, and the green expanses of the Amazon basin.

Looking at photographs of these people brings you closer to yourself. On our road to civilization, we have lost contact with nature and with our true selves. I am sometimes envious of their indigenous lives: the simplicity, the innocence, the authenticity, the natural richness... These are all things that have long since disappeared from our over-developed world.

Jimmy Nelson is currently pursuing his project and hopes to make a Before They Pass Away film. I will follow his progress with interest. 


Foto copyright: Jimmy Nelson


'Indigenous peoples are the possessors of priceless information that we have somehow lost along the way.'

Portret Jimmy Nelson
Before They Pass Away screenshots