Alternate Realities: Jimmy Nelson’s ‘Before They Pass Away’

British Photographer Jimmy Nelson spent three years traveling to some of the most remote places on earth to document unique, endangered tribal cultures with his 4 x 5 view camera. The result is Before They Pass Away, a 12-pound, 400-page coffee table book as well as a stunning interactive website, where you can see some of his images of tribes from Ethiopa to Papua New Guinea, from Mongolia to Nepal to Namibia. Select where you want to go from the drop-down menu, then click Explore Tribes to see the images come to life. Above, a nomadic Mursi tribesman from Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

In 2009, I planned to become a guest of 31 secluded and visually unique tribes. I wanted to witness their time-honoured traditions, join in their rituals and discover how the rest of the world is threatening to change their way of life forever. 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.

There is a pure beauty in their goals and family ties, their belief in gods and nature, and their will to do the right thing in order to be taken care of when their time comes.

—Jimmy Nelson

Here are some of the tribes we visited:

The Kazakh tribe of the remote mountainous region of Bayan Olgii, Mongolia…

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Tsaatan (reindeer people) are the last reindeer herders who survived for thousands of years inhabiting the remotest subartic taiga, moving between 5 and 10 times a year…

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Indigenous Maori women in New Zealand…

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Maasai in the Rift Valley knocked us out…
Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

 Before They Pass Away is a fine, mind-shifting way to start your day. The book would make a welcome gift.

No comments yet.

Leave A Comment

Feeling Inspired?

If the Improvised Life is a source of creativity, inspiration, ideas and change in your daily life, please consider becoming a Friend with Benefits. A little bit goes a long way towards helping us publish fresh AD-FREE content each day.