Jimmy Nelson

“Before they pass away“

Jimmy’s ambition and mission is to make an iconic document of indigenous cultures and to leave a visual heritage for present and future generations. He wants to create an aesthetic photographic and film document that will stand the test of time. His work will be a catalyst for further discussion as to the authenticity and beauty of these fragile disappearing cultures.

Since 2010 Jimmy Nelson has been travelling around the world to document some of the most iconic indigenous cultures left on the planet today. He has come to realize, after a life spent travelling, that his camera is the perfect tool for making contact and building intimate and unique friendships. Jimmy has the ability to establish relationships with relatively unknown communities in some of the last untouched corners of the planet. On his journeys he is continuously witnessing the speed in which these amazing communities are embracing the future.

Jimmy Nelson is not a studied scientist but rather a self-educated ethnologist and visual anthropologist, who through curiosity is trying to find answers. His passion is to tell verbal and visual stories that leave room for the recipient’s questions. With this project Jimmy wants to increase awareness of the fascinating variety of indigenous people. He also tries to stress the importance of the knowledge and wisdom we can gain from the heritage behind their rites, customs and traditions.

What Jimmy Nelson is showing us with his pictures and stories, is just the tip of the iceberg. He has consciously chosen fragile communities, based on their geographical and traditional extravagance, but above all for their illuminating beauty.

What drives him is not compassion for poverty or illness, but passion for décor and embellishment. Painted bodies are mirrors of pure souls. Tattooed faces are messages in flesh, worn as a second skin. Above all else, it is his fascination for the rapidly vanishing harmony between man and nature takes us to places we thought had disappeared long ago.

He asks us, will we manage to save the fragile umbilical cord to our extraordinary primeval past? Or will we cut it with scissors of ignorance and thus potentially finding ourselves alone without a cultural purpose?

Or like Margeret Mead, a great social anthropologist, once said: “Having been born into a polychromatic world of cultural diversity, it is my fear that our grandchildren will awake into a monochromatic world not ever having known anything else”.

About Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson (UK, 1967) started working as a photographer in 1987. Having spent 10 years at a Jesuit boarding school in the North of England, he set off on his own to traverse the length of Tibet on foot (1985). The journey lasted a year and upon his return his unique visual diary, featuring revealing images of a previously inaccessible Tibet, was published to wide international acclaim.

Soon after (1987) he was commissioned to cover a variety of culturally newsworthy themes for many of the world leading publications ranging from the Russian involvement in Afghanistan and the ongoing strife between India and Pakistan in Kashmir to the beginning of the war in former Yugoslavia.

In early 1994 he and his Dutch wife Ashkaine Hora Adema produced “Literary Portraits of China”. A coffee table book about all indigenous cultures in China and their translated literature. The book was the result of a forty month project that took them to all the hidden corners of the newly opening People’s Republic. Upon its completion the images were exhibited in the People’s Palace on Tiananmen Square, Beijing, and then followed by a successful worldwide tour.

From 1997 onwards, Jimmy successfully undertook commercial advertising assignments for many of the world’s leading brands. At the same time he started accumulating images of remote and unique cultures photographed with a traditional 50-year-old plate camera and awards followed.

In 2010 he began his journey to create the iconic artistic document that became “Before They pass Away”. After visiting 35 chosen Indigenous communities, part 1 was published to International acclaim at the beginning of 2014. Jimmy received many awards.

Today Jimmy is still travelling and photographing to produce part 2 of the project. His communication and his passion are found on a far wider platform. He is exhibiting at International Museums, shows his work at the world’s leading Photographic Art galleries, speaking at international conferences and is at the moment setting up the Jimmy Nelson Foundation.

Selection of Works:

Dele & Lale, Omo Valley, Ethiopia, 2011
Goroka, Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, 2010
Hartmann Valley, Cafema, Namibia, 2011
Altantsogts, Bayan Olgii, Mongolia, 2011
Yakim, Brigade 2, Nenet, Yamal Peninsula, Ural Mountains, Russia, 2011
Buddhist Monks, Ganden Monastery, Tibet, 2011

Further Information

Exhibition period

Perak Lady, Lamayuru Monastery, Lamayaru Village, Ladakh, India, 2012

From 07 July to 11 September 2016.

All exhibitions at a glance

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  • Exhibitions
Archive

Dietmar Kainrath


“The magic 7”
/en/art/exhibitions/dietmar-kainrath-the-magic-7/

The Magic of the Moment:

70 Years of Sports Photography by Magnum /en/art/exhibitions/the-magic-of-the-moment-70-years-of-sports-photography-by-magnum/

Per aspera ad astra

through hardships to the stars /en/art/exhibitions/per-aspera-ad-astra-through-hardships-to-the-stars/

Jimmy Nelson

“Before they pass away“ /en/art/exhibitions/jimmy-nelson-before-they-pass-away/

Terra Mater

Discover and understand the world /en/art/exhibitions/terra-mater-discover-and-understand-the-world/

Jörg F. Zimmermann

Farben des Lichts - Fine Glass Arts /en/art/exhibitions/farben-des-lichts-fine-glass-arts-by-joerg-f-zimmermann/

Alexander Maria Lohmann


HUMANPLAYGROUND
/en/art/exhibitions/humanplayground/

Dietmar Kainrath


"Erfinder und Erfindungen"
/en/art/exhibitions/dietmar-kainrath-erfinder-und-erfindungen/

Rainer W. Schlegelmilch


"The Golden Age of Car Racing"
/en/art/exhibitions/rainer-w-schlegelmilch-the-golden-age-of-car-racing/

Finale in Salzburg


Red Bull Illume at Hangar-7
/en/art/exhibitions/red-bull-illume-at-hangar-7/

Dietmar Kainrath


"Im Focus: Filme"
/en/art/exhibitions/dietmar-kainrath-im-focus-filme/

Steve McQueen


The Last Mile
/en/art/exhibitions/steve-mcqueen/

Gregor Schlierenzauer

“Stille Momente” (Quiet Moments) /en/art/exhibitions/gregor-schlierenzauer/

Robert Rottensteiner


Yssilo - Parallele Welt
/en/art/exhibitions/robert-rottensteiner/

THE SWARM


A Parametric Pavilion
/en/art/exhibitions/the-swarm/

HangART–7 Edition 19: The Baltic States


Tides of change
/en/art/hangart-7-edition-19-the-baltic-states/

Red Bull Illume 2011


Picture This!
/en/art/exhibitions/red-bull-illume-2011/

HangART–7 Edition 18: Czech Republic


A Dance
/en/art/hangart-7-edition-18-czech-republic/

HangART–7 Edition 17:
Poland

In dark
woods
/en/art/hangart-7-edition-17-poland/

HangART–7 Edition 16: England

The Secret Of England's Greatness /en/art/hangart-7-edition-16-england/

Jos Pirkner


Material, Form und Raum
/en/art/exhibitions/jos-pirkner-material-form-und-raum/

Dietmar Kainrath


„Canrath“
/en/art/exhibitions/dietmar-kainrath-canrath/

HangART–7 Edition 15: Austria

An Encounter with
Reality
/en/art/hangart-7-edition-15-austria/

HangART–7 Edition 14: Germany


Paint Something German
/en/art/hangart-7-edition-14-germany/

Eleanor Coppola


Circle of Memory
/en/art/exhibitions/eleanor-coppola/

HangART–7 Edition 13: Italy


Una forza del passato
/en/art/hangart-7-edition-13-italy/