In 2013, the British photographer Jimmy Nelson published his first monograph, a 400-page photo book titled “Before They Pass Away.” His subjects were shot in some of the world’s most remote wildernesses, showing us, in monumental fashion, the lives and cultures of some of the world’s most isolated and ancient indigenous communities.
In 2018, Nelson published his second major project titled “Homage to Humanity.” He visited 34 isolated tribes in five continents, revisiting some from his previous journey. While his first book was a collection of pictures, this time the photographer decided to expand and added travel journals, maps, local facts, and personal interviews, shifting the focus of his story from the objects he captures to the journey itself.
“When I was 17, I started a journey, and it’s still the journey that I’m on today,” Nelson said. “It’s about reconnecting and finding myself. I’ve dressed it and disguised it with photography and tribes and indigenous cultures, but ultimately it’s a very personal journey of wanting to feel and survive and be alive.”
In his work, Jimmy explores the idea of reconnecting to our roots and our humanity, and he believes that indigenous people play an important role in our perception of ourselves as human beings. That’s why he’s inviting everyone to join the global discussion on cultural identity. The more you know about the world around you, the easier it is to accept and appreciate it. In a couple of weeks, Jimmy Nelson is planning to release a movie featuring 1500 photographs, “all stitched together into one amazing journey across the cradle of human culture.”
More info: jimmynelson.com
1. Hakamou’i, Ua Pou, Marguesas Islands, French Polynesia
“The motivation is very simple,” photographer Jimmy Nelson told Popular Photography. “It is to iconize fragile and remote, disappearing cultures and tribes, and put them on a pedestal. And to look at them in a way that we look at ourselves and we regard ourselves as being important.”
2. Yang Shuo Cormorants, China
3. Samburu Tribe, Kenya
4. Mask Dancers, Paro, Bhutan
Nelson travelled for his project to the farthest and most impassable corners of the world, and he took both digital Nikons and a (partly) self-built analogue 4×5 camera with a variety of lenses. The argument for a 4×5 inch analogue camera is usually its sharpness and details, but Nelson based his choice mainly on the earthly character of the analogue camera.
“The photos are often not that sharp at all, I had exposure times of a few seconds, and sometimes the film surface was not flat in the corners, so many photos are not sharp. And here and there, photos have been taken unevenly over each other or were badly exposed. All forms of imperfection I found interesting because I am romantic, and analogue photography fits in with that. Also, I never used flash, because that would detract from the atmosphere of romance. And precisely because of the long exposure times, I had to be calm and concentrate fully. The portraits I took inside their homes have been made with reflectors that look more natural. All the people who see my photos are touched by the beauty and will, therefore, delve into the story, which is what I wanted to achieve.”