The last of the world's tribes

Photographer Jimmy Nelson captures the last surviving tribes who have preserved their customs against the onslaught of globalization
Curated by: Jimmy Nelson, Madhu Kapparath
Published: Dec 22, 2015
The last of the world's tribes

Image by : Photo © Jimmy Nelson Pictures BV,,

KAZAKHS - Mangolia

My dream had always been to preserve our world’s tribes through my photography. 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. Ingredients we seem to have forgotten in our so-called civilised world. We were often met with a great deal of scepticism about our intentions and understandably so. We would always approach the people we photographed with enormous dignity. I deliberately physically positioned myself lower than them, to record in an upward angle. When the tribesmen saw me intensely concentrating yet always supplying an unending flow of compliments, they figured they had to do their best too. The more effort you put in as a photographer, the more exposed your emotions become. As I struggle with the sweat pouring off my bald head, the more the subjects feel a sense of importance, urgency and pride.
If we could start a global movement that documents and shares images and stories about tribal life, both old and new, maybe we could save part of our world’s precious cultural heritage.

About the project
In the book, Before They Pass Away, British photographer Jimmy Nelson’s epic portraits present these dignified inheritors of age-old traditions in a proud spirit and in all their glory.