From 25 September – 16 November 2014, Atlas Gallery will be the first British Gallery to showcase Jimmy Nelson’s landmark project Before They Pass Away. This elegant and evocative collection of photographs documents the unseen lives and traditions of over 15 million people from 35 of the world’s last indigenous tribes.
British-born Nelson started his career as a photographer in 1987. Now based in Amsterdam, his limitless curiosity and fascination with other cultures has lead him on a journey around the world to document some of the world’s oldest surviving communities.
At once an historical record and an intense visual journey, these photographs depict near-forgotten cultures entirely isolated from our increasingly globalized world. His portraits poignantly capture the dignity of these tribal people and highlight the uncomplicated serenity in their extraordinary lives, customs and society, all the while documenting the vanishing harmony between man and nature.
Through this collection of photographs, Nelson takes us on a journey through mountains, ice fields, jungles and valleys, in the farthest corners of the world, and documents the cultures of 35 tribes – openly reminiscent of the work of American photographer, Edward Curtis, whose iconic images of American Indians at the turn of the 19th century Nelson cites as one of his influences.
Jimmy Nelson summarised the mission of his work in the concluding call to action from his 2013 talk for TEDx Amsterdam:
‘We have to wake up. We have to start documenting these cultures very quickly because they are going to disappear, and as soon as they disappear, we will lose something which is very important to us. It is our authenticity. It’s where we came from. It’s our origins.’
Nelson’s oeuvre reaches to every corner of the world encompassing the following cultures: Kazakh (Western Mongolia), Himba (Namibia), Huli (Indonesia & Papua New Guinea), Asaro (Indonesia & Papua New Guinea), Kalam (Indonesia & Papua New Guinea), Goroka (Indonesia & Papua New Guinea), Chukchi (Siberia-Chukota), Maori (New Zealand), Mustang (Nepal), Gauchos (Argentina & Ecuador), Tsaatan (Mongolia), Samburu (Kenya & Tanzania), Rabari (India), Mursi (Ethiopia), Ladakhi (India), Vanuatu (Vanuatu), Tibetans (China), Huaorani (Argentina & Ecuador), Drokpa (India), Dassanech (Ethiopia), Banna (Ethiopia), Karo (Ethiopia), Hamar (Ethiopia), Arbore (Ethiopia), Dani (Indonesia & Papua New Guinea), Yali (Indonesia & Papua New Guinea), Korowai (Indonesia & Papua New Guinea), Nenets (Siberia – Yamal) and Maasai (Kenya & Tanzania).