Before they pass away…

From Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya, to China, Nepal, Mongolia and beyond – Jimmy Nelson’s ‘Before they Pass Away’ series is an extraordinary visual testament to the remaining indigenous cultures, in the most remote corners of the world…

A captivating glimpse into unknown and untouched realms

These fascinating portraits are a captivating glimpse into unknown and unspoiled realms, filled with the pageantry of ancient tradition. They are fascinating, if slightly unsettling, and transcend rich cultural prosperity, symbolism and pride, in the face of the looming threat of modern society. At the junction between our civilisation and theirs, we’re forced to question and search beyond our familiar frames of reference, towards a deeper understanding of humanity. 

Global awareness

Born in Kent, England, in 1967, Jimmy Nelson started working as a photographer in 1987. Since his first internationally acclaimed exploration through Tibet almost 20 years ago, his photography has taken him to the farthest flung corners of the world, to capture the imagination of people across the Earth. ‘Before they Pass Away’ is the result of four years of travelling with his historic plate camera, through more than 40 countries. The friendships formed and intimate portraits captured along the way form a unique photographic account of incredible tribal and cultural diversity – bringing awareness to a global audience. Nelson is a romantic, an idealist and an aesthete, and these different perspectives combine to form his stylistically fascinating work. The moving portraits from his journeys tell a story that words cannot – of untold beauty, underlined by sadness about the uncertainty of our world’s legacy to future generations. 

Jimmy Nelson’s photos from ‘Before they Pass Away’ are currently on display at Aaart Foundation Kirchberg and Crossover Hamburg. A coffee-table book has been published at TeNeues.

Photos: Jimmy Nelson © All rights reserved

Anke Degenhard is a German curator, gallerist, arts manager and a globally respected expert in contemporary photographic art. Anke Degenhard will be reporting regularly for Classic Driver from within the world of modern photography.