Page 1

Photography project by Jimmy Nelson 1

Before they pass away



KAZAKHS tsaatan


Before They Pass Away is an XXL book of 40 x 59 cm, presented in a sumptuous clamshell box of 46 x 63 cm.



Before they pass away

mustang RABARI

MURSI dassanech, banna, karo & hamar SAMBURU



dani, yali & korowai huli, asaro & kalam

The purity of humanity exists. It is there in the mountains, the ice fields, vanuatu


the jungle, along the rivers and in the valleys. Jimmy Nelson found the last tribesmen and observed them. He smiled and drank their mysterious brews before taking out his camera. He shared what real people share:


vibrations, invisible but palpable. He adjusted his antenna to the same frequency as theirs. As trust grew, a MAORI

shared understanding of the mission developed: the world must never forget the way things were. Because this is where we, the urban dwellers, come from. A world where justice and honour are natural ingredients. Where wars are fought out of the need to survive. A world with strict rules and rituals. A transparent world, free of hypocrisy. Tribes and forgotten cultures can teach us about aspects of humanity such as love, respect, peace, survival and sharing. 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. Whether in Papua New Guinea or in Kazakhstan, in Ethiopia or in Siberia, tribes are the last resorts of natural authenticity. Jimmy Nelson forces us to see, to understand and to remember. Before they pass away.



The project

The experience

‘’In 2009, I planned to become

“In February we visited the

a guest of the world’s 31 most

reindeer-herding Tsataan peoples

secluded and visually unique tribes.

in the Hovsgol Province in Northern

I wanted to witness their time-

Mongolia. We had been travelling for

honoured traditions, join in their

a number of days, every day breaking

shamanistic rituals and discover how

camp and moving onto the next

the rest of the world is threatening

location through the thick snow and

to change their way of life forever.

extreme low temperatures.

Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic

Despite my best efforts, I was unable

document that would stand the test

to get the Tsataan families to warm

of time. A body of work that would

to me and eventually let me direct

be an irreplaceable ethnographic

them into making the time consuming

record of a fast disappearing world.

pictures that I had come for. One

Elegant and evocative portraits

evening, I finally succumbed to their

created with a traditional 10 x

daily request to essentially get blind

8 plate Field camera. The detail

drunk on the local vodka —the

that is attained by using such

cultural norm in the northern climes

large negatives would provide an

to escape the daily drudgery, dark

extraordinary view into the emotional

and biting cold. After a number of

and spiritual lives of the last

hours I and twenty other adult family

indigenous peoples of the world. At

members fell into a self-inflicted coma

the same time, it would glorify their

onto the fur-covered floor of the newly

varying and unique cultural creativity

erected teepee amongst children of

with their painted faces, scarified

varying ages. After a few hours of

bodies, jewellery, extravagant

sleep I needed to empty my bladder.

hairstyles and ritual language.

I rolled laterally over all the bodies to the side where I wedged my body up

It was extraordinary, but I was able

against the skin of the teepee.

to do my work for this book without any restriction. I didn’t have to take

It was too late. But hey, who was to

into consideration sponsors, brands

know? The varying layers of outdoor

or special commercial directions.

clothing would soon freeze. The

It was all about beauty, unlimited

underside of the teepee was already

beauty as I, and nobody else, saw it.

frozen. The drunken reindeer herdsmen

Having found the necessary funding,

were all still snoring. Not long after

I could start planning my travels,

having rolled to my designated spot

organizing the logistics, buying

in the Mongolian sardine tin I soon

the gear and putting together a

became aware of a strange sound

wonderful and supportive team that

outside the tent. A chorus of excited

followed me during more than two

grunts eventually ended up in a herd

years of travels around the world.

of excited reindeer trampling over the whole teepee. Little did I know

We eventually decided that we would

that that for reindeer, human urine

make videos about all 31 tribes we

is a delicacy. They will actively seek

visited. After all, there was little

it out to drink and many tribesmen

chance that we would come back

carry skin containers of their own

and we wanted to share our travels

urine, which they use to attract stray

with as many people as possible.

reindeer back into the herd.

As the project gained momentum,


the plan was hatched to also make

To my delight I found the next day

a movie, a TV series, a DVD Box

that I was welcomed with open arms

and possibly three different video

into the group by both young and old.

games. More creative ideas as spin-

And all requests to pose in front of my

offs of this book are in the making.

old cumbersome camera were granted.

It is great to know that so many

As it seemed that having accidentally

influential people are committed

shown my fallibility, in their eyes I was

to the project and that the world

human after all. This experience was at

will realize how important an issue

the very beginning of the project and

we are covering. How exciting it all

I subsequently soon learned that the

is, knowing how we started with a

more vulnerable I presented myself to

small-scale project that is to become

sitters, the sooner I would could gain

a global venture.’’

access to their patience and trust.”


“Fine horses and fierce eagles are the wings of the Kazakhs.�





“And we are his witnesses. That is when mere photography becomes art: when it touches us in our most vulnerable spot.”

In search of purity lost Jimmy Nelson (Sevenoaks, Kent,

a 30 month project that brought

1967) started working as a

them to all the hidden corners of the

photographer in 1987. Having spent

newly opening People’s Republic.

10 years at a Jesuit boarding school

Upon its completion the images were

in the North of England, he set off

exhibited in the People’s Palace on

on his own to traverse the length of

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, and then

Tibet on foot. The journey lasted a

followed by a worldwide tour.

year and upon his return his unique visual diary, featuring revealing

From 1997 onwards Jimmy began to

images of a previously inaccessible

successfully undertake commercial

Tibet, was published to wide

advertising assignments for many of

international acclaim.

the world’s leading brands. At the same time he started accumulating

Soon after, he was commissioned to

images of remote and unique

cover a variety of culturally newsworthy

cultures photographed with a

themes, ranging from the Russian

traditional 50-year-old 10 x 8 plate

involvement in Afghanistan and the

camera. Many awards followed.

ongoing strife between India and Pakistan in Kashmir to the beginning of

When he started to successfully and

the war in former Yugoslavia.

internationally exhibit and sell these images, this created the subsequent

In early 1994 he and his Dutch wife

momentum and enthusiasm for the

produced Literary Portraits of China,

initiation of Before they Pass Away.





featured tribeS ASARO BANNA Chukchi DASSANECH DANI DroKPa Gauchos HAMAR Himba Huaorani HULI KALAM KARO Kazakhs KOROWAI Ladakhi Maasai Maori Mursi Mustang Nenets Rabari Samburu Tibetans Tsataan vanuatu YALI



• English

• 250 exclusive and numbered copies of this XXL book,

• 20.000 words

offered in a sumptuous clamshell box (460 x 630 mm),

• 500 images

showcased on a custom-made transparent book holder,

• 464 p, 200 gr

and containing three autographed prints.

• 400 x 590 mm

• The XXL limited edition version of the book will be followed

• Hard cover with clamshell box (460 x 630 mm)

in 2013 with other books, film, DVD and computer games.

• E 1,750 / £ 1,400 / $ 2,250

• E 5,000 / £ 4,000 / $ 6,500

• ISBN: 978-94-60650-76-5

• ISBN: 978-94-60650-77-2

• Spring 2013

• Spring 2013

• Printed in Italy






Photography: Jimmy Nelson

Booqs Publishers is an original imprint of

Should you need more information

For all sales info,

Jimmy Nelson Pictures BV

Assistant photography: Hannelore Vandenbusche

Tectum Publishers. This Belgian company

about the book, Jimmy Nelson,

please contact Marc Reijntjes.

Rhenen - The Netherlands.

Assistant photography/film: Bram Vis

has built a solid reputation as a publisher

interview appointments or have any

Phone: +32 3 226 66 73

All rights reserved. No part of this

Project coordinator and curator: Narda van ‘t Veer

of stylish illustrated books on architecture,

other questions, please contact

Mobile: +32 477 303 393

brochure or book may be used or

Text: Mark Blaisse

decoration, design and related topics. In this

Chantal Kartaram.


reproduced in any manner whatsoever

Graphic design: ReiNarDus

title it yet again demonstrates the high quality

Mobile phone: +31 62475 3089

without written permission from the

Language check: The Language Lab

of the publications it is committed to.


publisher and Jimmy Nelson Pictures BV.

Project owner and director: Frans van Hapert



“Praising the painted souls in the traditional worlds of tribes and cultures, Jimmy Nelson begs us never to forget the beauty of our origins.� 16

Before They Pass Away  

XXL Book about 21 worldwide tribes. Photography by Jimmy Nelson.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you