According to photographer Jimmy Nelson, the Before They Pass Away project began nearly 30 years ago when he began walking from one side of Tibet to the other. That’s when he set it upon himself to document the last of the world’s ancient tribes and peoples with his 50-year-old 4x5 film camera. Nelson then spent the next four years traveling across the world to photograph 31 tribes, chosen for their geographical, traditional, and aesthetic importance. He spent two weeks with each photographing and learning a little about their traditions, mannerisms, and beliefs.
Now, each community's images are captured between the covers of his new photography book Before They Pass Away. “My dream had always been to preserve our world’s tribes through my photography,” writes Nelson. “Not to stop change from happening—because I know I can’t—but to create a visual document reminding us, and the generations after us, of the beauty of pure and honest living.” Here, we preview of Nelson’s book and some of the people he encountered.
Photo: The Kazakhs of the westernmost province of Bayan-Ölgii, Mongolia, are a Turkic people originating from the northern parts of Central Asia and can trace their roots to the 15th century. Most Kazakhs in this remote, mountainous region are dependent on domestic animals for their livelihood and practice the ancient tradition of hunting rabbits, marmots, foxes, and wolves on horseback with the help of trained golden eagles.