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.

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48 Comments

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

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

Hans Rosemond's picture

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

Hans Rosemond's picture

“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.

Hans Rosemond's picture

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.

Hans Rosemond's picture

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

Anonymous's picture

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...?

Anonymous's picture

Who are the Kardashian's?

Rex Larsen's picture

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.

Hans Rosemond's picture

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.

Hans Rosemond's picture

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.

Courts Griner's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

"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.

Anonymous's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

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).

Erik Kellar's picture

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.

user-156818's picture

Fstoppers has featured a fabulous photographer documenting disappearing middle America: https://fstoppers.com/bts/photographer-danny-wilcox-frazier-documents-st...

user-156818's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

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

Anonymous's picture

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

Rex Larsen's picture

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.

Rex Larsen's picture

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.

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