The Last Vestiges of Untouched Tribal Glory in Series ‘Before They Pass Away’

dying culture

Jimmy Nelson captures some of the last holdouts of truly unspoiled indigenous peoples and cultures.  These people are the last existing ethnic groups who have somehow managed to preserve their ways with a purity that has left it untouched by the modern world. While they still exist in many parts around the globe, they are a quickly vanishing breed. This valiant series to document them before it is too late is called Before They Pass Away.

culture in costume

Jimmy Nelson does the next best thing to cultural preservation, which is to preserve these people and their ancient ways in pictures. The British Nelson documents these carriers of the torch, as it were; people descended from tribal nobility, steeped in age-old traditions and tremendously proud in spirit.  He is lucky enough to photograph them in all their intact glory, preserving a unique visual experience. This elegantly photographed series will stand as an important sociological document as well as a vital historical record.

dying tribes

Nelson tried his best not to just visit these people, but to immerse himself in their ways. He spent around two weeks with each tribe, becoming acquainted with their traditions. Nelson participated in their rituals, documenting it all in a very dispassionate manner. In his various images you will see exceptional jewelry as well as odd forms of hairstyle and clothing. The environs also reveal elements that hearken to a much simpler existence.

before they pass away

Nelson made it his personal mission to contribute an indelible effort so that the world never forgets its primal beginnings. “Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world,” said Nelson.

tribe in gear

Luckily, all of his work is now compiled in a book and will be developed into a film. Thanks to Nelson, we too can visit the most isolated and distant corners of the globe and come face-to-face with members of a thinning, vanishing world.

tribe in costume tradition

See Nelson’s poignant Before They Pass Away here.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.