Before They - Photography Project by Jimmy Nelson


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Anke Degenhard


Van Baerlestraat 13 IV
1071 AM Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: (+31) 020 722 09 25


Afrika Museum   
Postweg 6 
6571 CS Berg en Dal
The Netherlands


Stadsgårdshamnen 22
SE-116 45 Stockholm

Steenstraat 1
2312 BS Leiden
The Netherlands


Magic Group Media


Atlas Gallery                                Camera Work
49 Dorset Street                             Kantstrasse 149
London W1U 7NF                           10623 Berlin
United Kingdom                              Germany

Crossover                                      Aaart Foundation
Milchstrasse 7-8                           Stöcklfeld 37
20148 Hamburg                            6365 Kirchberg in Tirol 
Germany                                        Austria

La Photographie Galerie             Bryce Wolkowitz    
100 Rue de Stassart                      505 West 24th Street    
1050 Brussel                                  NY, New York 10011  
Belgium                                          USA 

Heist Gallery                                 A. Galerie
43 Linden Gardens                         Rue Léonce Reynaud, 4
London W2 4HQ                              75116 Paris
United Kingdom                              France

Opiom Gallery                               PH Neutro
11 Chemin du Village                     Via Padre Eugenio Barsanti 46
06650 Opio                                     55045 Pietrasanta
France                                             Italy

OstLicht                                          Rademakers Gallery
Absberggasse 27                            KNSM-Laan 291
A-1100 Wien                                   1019 LE Amsterdam
Austria                                             The Netherlands

La Hune                                            Red Bull Hangar-7
Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés        Salzburg Airport
16-18 Rue de l’Abbaye                     Wilhelm-Spazier-Str. 7A
75006 Paris                                      5020 Salzburg
France                                               Austria

Absolute Art Gallery 
Zeedijk 806
B-8300 Knokke
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.

Before They Pass Away - THE PROJECT

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”


by Nick de Kruijk


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