PDN Photo of the Day

A Romantic View of Isolated Cultures

For his 2013 book Before They Pass Away, published by teNeues, Jimmy Nelson photographed members of indigenous cultures around the world, asking them to pose “at your very best and at your very proudest,” as Nelson told an interviewer. The result was portraits of individuals and loose groupings of men and women dressed in a mix of ceremonial and everyday clothing, often set in dramatic landscapes. A new exhibition opening today at Atlas Gallery in London and on view until April 8 presents the next installment of Nelson’s project, “Before They Part II.” It includes new photographs taken in Bhutan, depicting traditional dancers in the Upper Paro Valley in the Himalayasa, as well as recent images taken in remote locations across China, French Polynesia, Mongolia, Tanzania and Chad.

Nelson is careful to describe himself as “not an anthropologist or a man of science,” as his website states, but someone who makes his own “artistic and creative interpretation of the people he has met,” an approach that is “unquestionably romantic.” Nelson began his career in photojournalism before working in commercial photography, and he brings a stylized glamor to his subjects. As he told Roads & Kingdoms, after working in the commercial world, “I saw how you can attract people with a still image. I applied this gloss and veneer to the project.” The result is a series with a sense of collaboration and performance as well as allure. He says, “I said to the people: “I’m here to celebrate you, I’m here to put you on a pedestal, I’m here to make you feel special.”

Related Stories:
Seeking a Spiritual Connection to Nature in Mongolia
Tribes of South Ethiopia
Costume Nationale: Jim Naughten on Photographing the Herero People (For PDN Subscribers; login required)

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