Jimmy Nelson

24 Feb — 8 Apr 2017 at the Atlas Gallery in London, United Kingdom

17 FEBRUARY 2017
Jimmy Nelson, XXII 467 Yangshuo Cormorants, China, 2005. Courtesy of Atlas Gallery
Jimmy Nelson, XXII 467 Yangshuo Cormorants, China, 2005. Courtesy of Atlas Gallery

For the past six years, photographer Jimmy Nelson has traversed the globe to photograph indigenous communities for his long-term project Before They. This exhibition will showcase new photographs taken in Bhutan, on show here for the first time, alongside recent images taken in remote locations across China, French Polynesia, Mongolia, Tanzania and Chad.

From Siberia to Namibia, China to Peru and South Sudan to Argentina, in all Nelson has traveled to 20 countries to photograph 35 indigenous tribes. The project was inspired by Nelson’s fascination with the harmony between man and nature and his search for the places in the world where this was still prevalent, although often under threat from industrialisation and the theft of land and resources. The resulting photographs depict indigenous people in their traditional dress both against dramatic natural backdrops, or interior portraits shot in the style of Dutch old master paintings. The images are not intended as a factual, ethnographical representation, rather an aesthetic celebration and personal interpretation of the variety and beauty of indigenous culture.

In December 2016 Nelson made his most recent journey to Bhutan to photograph the traditional dancers who reside in the Upper Paro Valley in the Himalayas. The dancers are depicted against the majestic backdrop of the mountains surrounded by prayer flags clothed in traditional dress for their mask dance. These large-scale photographs, never-before published, will be exhibited for the first time at Atlas Gallery.

Jimmy Nelson was born in the UK in 1967 and after finishing school, at the age of 19 began to trek the length of Tibet on foot. He took as small camera and photographed his journey, which lasted about a year.

Upon his return he began work as a photojournalist, and covered international events ranging from the Russian involvement in Afghanistan and the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan in Kashmir to the beginning of the war in former Yugoslavia. In 1992 he was commissioned to produce the book Literary Portraits of China’ and traveled the country for 36 months with his wife Ashkaine Hora Adema who contributed to the book text. In 1997 he began to work in advertising, living between Amsterdam and Ibiza with his wife and children.

Before They has been the subject of over 25 international exhibitions including the Fotografiska, Stockholm, Rijksmuseum Volkenunde Leiden and Afrika Museum Beg en dal. In October 2016 the Jimmy Nelson Foundation was established to raise awareness to the value of the world’s cultural diversity and to help to preserve this for future generations.