Before They Pass Away – Part 1

Before They Pass Away is an amazing anthropological project initiated by photographer Jimmy Nelson to document tribes from all over the world that are facing extinction. Captured through the lens of a 4×5 camera Jimmy Nelson celebrates his subjects, their culture, dress and customs in truly captivating images. 

I highly recommend visiting the website to see all of his photographs. It is beautifully designed to give the photographs centre stage and provides stories and information about each of the tribes (I lost over an hour exploring it and it was well worth it). His journey has also been turned into a book and a film, which, I would buy in a heartbeat if I had the funds.


It was very hard to limit the amount of images in this post. To keep things simple I selected my favourite image from each of the 29 tribes he photographed – which I will divide into three posts. Let’s get started on Part 1…

” The Kazakhs are the descendants of Turkic, Mongolic and Indo-Iranian tribes and Huns that populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea.”


The Himba are an ancient tribe of tall, slender and statuesque herders. “ based in Namibia.


“It is believed that the first Papua New Guineans migrated to the island over 45000 years ago… The largest tribe, the Huli wigmen, paint their faces yellow, red and white and are famous for their tradition of making ornamented wigs from their own hair.”


“The legendary Asaro Mudmen first met with the Western world in the middle of the 20th century. Legend has it that the Mudmen were forced to flee from an enemy into the Asaro River where they waited until dusk to escape. The enemy saw them rise from the banks covered in mud and thought they were spirits. “


“The women of the Kalam tribes are exceptional farmers. The men hunt and fight other tribes over land, pigs and women. Great effort is made to impress the enemy with terrifying masks, wigs and paint.”


The Goroka have plenty of good food, close-knit families and a great respect for the wonders of nature. They live by hunting, gathering plants and growing crops. Tribal warfare is a common and men go to great effort to impress the enemy with make-up and ornaments.”


“The ancient Arctic Chukchi live on the peninsula of the Chukotka. Unlike other native groups of Siberia, they have never been conquered by Russian troops.”


“The long and intriguing story of the origin of the indigenous Maori people can be traced back to the 13th century, the mythical homeland Hawaiki, Eastern Polynesia. Due to centuries of isolation, the Maori established a distinct society with characteristic art, a separate language and unique mythology.”


“The traditions of the people of Lo (in Nepal) are closely related to early Buddhism. Most still believe that the world is flat. They are highly religious, prayers and festivals are an integral part of their lives. The grandeur of the monasteries illustrates the prominent position of religion.”


“Nomadic and colourful horsemen and cowboys have wandered the prairies as early as the 1700s, when wild Cimarron cattle overpopulated the flatlands. In the 18th century, when leather was in high demand, Gauchos arose to clandestinely hunt the huge herds of horses and cattle.”


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