Before they pass away, Jimmy Nelson

Incredible photos of the world’s rarest tribes

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By Lottie Gross
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There are places in the world where little sign of western development exists, but it still threatens to change traditions and beliefs forever. Jimmy Nelson found and documented 31 of these traditional isolated communities in his quest to photograph the “purity of humanity”. 

“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.”

In 2009, Nelson set off to become the guest of 31 different secluded tribes across the world, from New Zealand to Namibia, and later returned with a unique collection of stunning photographs, glorifying the creativity of these little-seen or understood ethnic groups. These are a selection of the photographs in his new book titled Before They Pass Away.

A Ladakhi woman from the Himalayas


A Maori man, New Zealand


The Drokpa in India and Pakistan


Maori woman, New Zealand



Himba men, Namibia


Kazakhs, Mongolia


A Nenet man, Russia


Tibetan monks


Before they pass away, Jimmy NelsonAll photographs © Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson, is published by teNeues, Photo © Jimmy Nelson Pictures BV,