The echoes of the present and soon-to-be-past.DV
Picture a nomad horseman charging across a deserted plain; apart from pounding hooves, ragged breaths and sweat shaking from his horse’s mane, the only sound you hear is the cry of a distant bird. Now see a beautiful tribeswoman, standing proud and fierce through the heat haze, her eyes probing into yours, or a frolicking couple, covered in white markings and symbols, strange but familiar. These are the sights of a disappearing world, the echoes of the present and soon-to-be-past.
That this could be true at any moment is a tragedy akin to losing the icecaps on Kilimanjaro, or the dearth of polar bears. Our successors will never know firsthand the beauty that is here all around us right now, never see what we could see.
There are still a few indomitable souls who dare to venture where we do not..DV
Yet the journey to witness our earth is a step too far from normalcy for most of us. “Maybe one day” never comes. How fortunate there are still a few indomitable souls who dare to venture where we do not.
Like the travelling heroes who fired my passion for the art of travel, mountain climbers, redoubtable Victorian ladies with their cases strapped to donkey’s backs, even tortured artists in Africa, succeeding their poetry with a dubious heritage, like Rimbaud, the travelling photographers of today are our best chance of holding the past.
Jimmy Nelson, in his new exhibition, Before They Pass Away, is one of an elite band of photographers, privileged to meet and photograph the disappearing peoples of the world. Travelling to document thirty-five indigenous cultures, with their original customs and rituals, he began to see that his camera was a great way to communicate and interchange with them.
Though some have not agreed with his fantastical visions, there is no denying their beauty as art, a fact which in itself raises interesting questions about the demarcation between art and documentary and the role of the artist in shaping history and culture. Photographers, like bloggers themselves reinterpret and repackage their vision of the quotidian, creating a new narrative, sometimes totally distinct from accepted reality.
Watch Jimmy Nelson’s Ted Talk about his amazing journey and judge for yourself..
He therefore embarked his traditional 5 x 4 plate Field camera to capture their emotional and spiritual lives via the recording of their painted faces, scarified bodies, jewellery, extravagant hairstyles and ritual languages.Opiom Gallery
Even to witness these photographs is to be inspired by the originality, inventiveness and breathtaking beauty of both their customs and presentation.
There is pure beauty in these tribes’ goals and family ties, their beliefs 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 Ka-zakhstan, in Ethiopia or in Siberia, they are the last resorts of natural authenticity. Opiom Gallery
Maybe we can’t all be custodians of our planet, (though why on earth not), but we can certainly take a moment to catch a glimpse of these beautiful souls, before it’s too late..
Main Picture: © Jimmy Nelson, Rauwhiri Winitana Paki Taupo Village, North Islands, New Zealand, 2011
All Photographs © Jimmy Nelson