Photographer Captures Images of Tribes Across the Globe

British photographer Jimmy Nelson traveled to 35 communities across the world in the first part of his project to document portraits of tribal and indigenous peoples. Today, in the second part of his project, Nelson is continuing to travel and document lives and cultures that are often unseen.

As a child, Nelson lived in Africa, Asia, and South America before going to a boarding school at the age of eight. Once he left school in 1985, he took off on a year-long journey across Tibet with his camera that would inspire the start of his photojournalism career. When he returned from this trip, he soon started working as a professional photojournalist.

After 25 years working as a photographer, he started working on the photo series, "Before They Pass Away," in order to create awareness about our world’s indigenous cultures through photography. Since then, his images have been published into an incredible 304-page global bestseller book, have been shown in galleries across the world, and were shared in the wonderful TED Talk attached above.

To check out more of Jimmy Nelson's work, you can see his website, Facebook, and Instagram. His exhibition is currently being shown in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Austria.

Emily Teague's picture

Emily Teague is an editorial & commercial photographer working out of Los Angeles and New York. Her style is greatly influenced by her photojournalism, world travels, color, and love for creating visual narratives.

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By most.

It'll be for anyone who's interested in it.


I’m pretty sure indigenous in this context is an anthropological term with a specific meaning.

“Native” and, though more recently, “indigenous” are scholarly terms that have been in use for well over a century in the anthropological field. Political correctness has no bearing on this vocabulary. Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, and many others in the field used the terms in the formative stages of American Anthropology.

As to white indigenous groups, the reason I didn’t respond is because the question isn’t relevant to the term. Indigenous, and native if you wish, in anthropology deal with ethnic groups, not races. Race may be one of many characteristics of an ethnic group, but ethnicity and race are not the same thing. You are injecting race into a context in which it is ancillary at best.

That is not to say that there aren’t ethnic groups that are Caucasian. There are many, and they deserve attention as well. This book is not an anthropological textbook and should not be treated as such.

I’m talking anthropology because thats the context of the words. Context informs meaning. “Wave” means different things if you’re taking about sound vs saying goodbye. “Ambulance,” although it comes from Latin “ambulat” does not mean it walks. Etymology does not equal definition.

Meh. Never mind. I’ve wasted enough time.

Good call on this hopeless case.

A sexy shot of fat white guys guzzling burger and chips in their natural habitats should be included to redress the racist bias.

Interesting. I am not white and was joking. But more seriously, yes white people can suffer from racism too. And if myself or a black person or any "coloured" person is entitled to be proud of our colour as a component of identity, then of course so are you as a white person. Perhaps that was your point in originally posting ?

Do you feel the white colour is under threat ? Bear in mind that a "whiter shade of pale" is something of a myth in that white people themselves have shades. Also consider that if we could visualise our distant ancestors or our distant descendants, we might get interesting surprises anyway. Racial changes are inevitable, but I think people of any colours object when change is sudden, noticeable and perceived as very negative (which is an entire can of worms in itself).

Moving more back on topic, how in seriousness does one depict "white people" in race or cultural photography ? My joke aside, so many pictures of the Kardashians for real, but they surely don't represent you all either...?

Who are the Kardashian's?

Some here may argue that the Earth is not round.

"Political correctness" is not a real thing. It's a term used by people who don't like something and can't manage a rational justification. It's a red flag that the person has nothing substantial to add to the conversation.

Haha...who knows what his motivations are? Altruism? Profit? Both? The Sami people are a wonderful example of an indigenous people with Caucasian features. If he didn't cover them in his book (I haven't read it, although oddly enough I saw it in the bookstore yesterday!) it's an unfortunate omission.

Oh sure. A lot of these ethnic groups make their living off of tourists who want photos. Many of them have nothing else. As they move away from their communities for more opportunity, those cultures continue to shrink. Can’t blame them for trying to survive.

Well, Bob.. let me address your "whataboutism" from good ol' Texan like myself. There are indeed some white colored indigenous tribes as mentioned above. But guess what sparky, you don't have to worry bout your white tribal thing disappearing any time soon.. it disappeared a LONG time ago during the paleo/meso era when humans traveled and mingled shortly after the ice age. I'm white yes.. but I'm mostly Greeko/Italian and with a hint of German. I am proud of it. I am also a VERY unapologetic Texan.. No one cares about your disappearing white tribal heritage.. I know I don't.
What this photographer has done over the years is capture tribes all over the world from every corner who live a "Paleolithic life" much different than you and I. That life style is important capture in photos, cause it illustrates where we all came from. And don't worry.. if you are OOOoofended by my comment.. well son.. I reckon you probably needed it.

"Does he also "create awareness" of "vanishing" white indigenous cultures?"

Yes he does.

A quick Google search and review of his website shows he has photographed the Marken and Terschelling people in the Netherlands, the Laplanders in Finland, among others.

Was your question merely for clarification, or was it a jumping off point to peddle your opinions? From the long chain that follows, it looks to be the latter.

Try having your opinion stay relevant and informed to a topic, rather than shoehorning a tangent wherever you see fit.

What about the rest of Europe and America? You’re advocating a quota on racial representation: how politically correct. The artist can shoot what he wants.

Maybe he could photograph people who think before they speak. They seem to be a vanishing culture.

Disagreeing on a topic and having a civil conversation about a difference of opinion is not what is happening here.

You were uninformed of the artist’s work, made an assumption based on that ignorance, threw your own irrelevant point of view into the mix, and hijacked parts of the conversation.

Calling out this dribble isn’t blocking dissent, it’s trying to have a meaningful conversation rather than a forum to spew egotism.

I’m not trying to have a meaningful conversation with you anymore, because you don’t seem competent or willing enough to have one here.

Enjoy your ignorance and blindness. I’m not wasting anymore time with you.

It wasn’t for this book, and I believe it was in connection with Ralph Lauren (a few years back). Check under Lapland (the region the Sami are from).

Bob it sounds like a project for you to shoot and bring to the F Stoppers. Bring the portraits and then we can debate what you shot and present. I think its only fair. Be the change you want to see.

This culture looks pretty white.

This culture looks pretty white.

Fstoppers has featured a fabulous photographer documenting disappearing middle America:

Did you even watch the video? Do you even care about excellent work? Danny Wilcox Frazier's work was so good it stuck out for me all these months later and that's rare in this day of flash-in-the-pan images on social media.

Considering how quickly you responded, you didn't read or watch. That's a shame. You missed out on an excellent documentary photographer. That's your loss.

She has all the basis to ask. You're a troll.

Lol. Just invited you to hang out big man on keyboard. Not threatening. 🤗😘

Thanks to Donna for the great share of Danette's feature on Danny Frazier. Let's say goodbye to Bob and end this thread. Click on the link provided by Donna. The video is impressive. Real moments captured on film. No retouching, no contrived images. What a treat.

The pictures are quite striking. After Nelson leaves, his subjects take off their costumes and put on their regular clothes. Ms Teague fails readers of Fstoppers by not including a sentence or two about the controversy that follows Nelson. Some of the most pointed criticism comes from leaders of indigenous communities. One tribal leader said "What Jimmy Nelson says about us is not true."
Timothy Allen, lead photographer for the BBC' Human Planet said, "The patronizing and self-aggrandizing narrative behind "Before They Pass Away" is literally painful to watch." The abundent criticism is easily found by typing Nelson's name into a search engine. Nelson does have a good eye for light, composition, marketing and sales.

So what part of it is not true. The fact that the culture wears traditional attire but still maintains 21 century clothes or does have to be a culture so pure in your definition that they never wear 21 century clothes. What about Native Americans they wear both 21 century clothes and traditional attire and preserve their culture. What about insert what ever culture here and co exist with the moment. I am confused by your statement. What exactly is your criteria.

You make some interesting points, Bob, but your definition of Native American does not match what is found in most dictionaries.
I was born in America but my heritage is Norwegian not Native American. I can imagine what Jimmy Nelson would prefer I wear for his portrait of me.

Learn from leaders of indigenous communities in their own words as well as experts in culture and anthropology. A quick Google search on the controversy that follows Jimmy Nelson and his work, that Emily Teague neglected to share, answers your question, Erik, better than I can.
I do again suggest that Fstoppers use experienced editors to help contributing photographers with their copy. A different headline and brief mention of the controversy that follows Nelson would have resulted in a stronger article.

What I find interesting is how Nelson's work and controversy parallels Edward Curtis' and his images of "vanishing" American Indian tribes at the turn of the 20th century: striking and beautiful images that are marred in arguments over their "authenticity" and the artist's motives. It makes sense that Nelson sees Curtis as a main inspiration for his photos.

That’s not what is comparable. I said the style of the photographs and the controversy over their “authenticity” and artistic intent are what are similar, not the exact subjects and content.

I don’t plan on commenting or responding to your observation on American culture.

It comparable, not the same. That’s what I wrote.

No, you read what I wrote. Learn the difference between “similar” and “the same.”


I don't find it surprising that people do not fit easily into "conservative" or "leftwing" monikers. Our thoughts can blend between these simplified and arbitrary states with fluidity, if we have the mental capacity and strength to allow it.

^ Like a child who loves to hear himself talk, even if he has nothing relevant or insightful to say.

When it’s the truth, absolutely.

Cute little veiled threat, bub.

“Oh stop.” Good idea.

To Bob Brady's comment. I offer you a challenge and lets see if we can get FStoppers to post your work. Bob it sounds like a project for you to shoot and bring to the F Stoppers. Bring the portraits and then we can debate what you shot and present. I think its only fair. Be the change you want to see.

I’m going to invite you down to Texas. Let’s how afraid I can make you. We don’t care for your kind where white, brown and others have existed along the border just fine without your white pride bs.


Real Americans. Lol. Report away. Backtracing you.