Photography project by Jimmy Nelson
Before they pass away
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
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.
‘’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.”
â€œFine horses and fierce eagles are the wings of the Kazakhs.â€?
“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
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
BEFORE THEY PASS AWAY THE LIMITED EDITION
BEFORE THEY PASS AWAY THE BOOK
• 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
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
â€œPraising the painted souls in the traditional worlds of tribes and cultures, Jimmy Nelson begs us never to forget the beauty of our origins.â€? www.beforethey.com 16