‘Before they pass away’, an explorational journey of tribes around the world
The purity of humanity exists. It is there in the mountains, the ice fields, the jungle, along the rivers and in the valleys. Jimmy Nelson found the last tribesmen and observed them. He smiled and drank their mysterious brews before taking out his camera.
He shared what real people share: vibrations, invisible but palpable. He adjusted his antenna to the same frequency as theirs. As trust grew, a shared understanding of the mission developed: the world must never forget the way things were.
With knowledge of the existence of tribal groups recognized by the Convention of the International Labour Organization concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (1989) as those “whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community, and are wholly or partially regulated by their own customs or traditions or by special legislation”, photographer Jimmy Nelson took his camera and walked for two weeks in the dynamics of life in different isolated tribes in the world. In total there were 29 tribes which Nelson revealed to modernity; became part of his life, endorsed their traditions, conducted their rituals and mystical images documented in what happens in these groups “before they disappear”.
In 2009, I planned to become a guest of 31 secluded and visually unique tribes. I wanted to witness their time-honoured traditions, join in their rituals and discover how the rest of the world is threatening to change their way of life forever. Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world.- Jimmy Nelson
‘Before they pass away’ is the name of this photographic project that becomes a glance at the first gestures of humanity. The goal, in the words of the English photographer, was to ensure that the world does not forget how things used to be.
It was between 2009 and 2010 when Nelson held this visual tour to generate an aesthetic document that stands the test of time and retains a piece of world history from the traditions of groups whose life is threatened by the transformation. “A job that constitute an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a rapidly disappearing world”.
This work is an editorial project with 464 pages, and it will become a movie. Images are looking into the remotest corners of the Earth inhabited by survivors of the cultures that have shaped the current worldview. ‘Before they pass away’ is not only photographs for contemplation but a testimony of historical and cultural value of the world we inhabit but also do not know about.
The photographs of the 29 tribes documented by Nelson are a call to respect and preserve the diversity and richness of civilizations that start with the men and are for the men.
Huli, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
Asaro, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
Kalam, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
Goroka, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
Maori, New Zealand
Vanuatu, Vanuatu Islands
Dani, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
Korowai, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
The whole project can be delighted in the engaging website www.beforethey.com, where you can meet the different tribes, explore the journey maps, watch some of the talks Jimmy has done for TedX, or buy the book.
All pictures by Jimmy Nelson.