For the past six years, photographer Jimmy Nelson has traversed the globe to photograph indigenous communities for his long-term project Before They. This exhibition at Atlas Gallery, in London, England, showcases new photographs taken in Bhutan, on show here for the first time, alongside recent images taken in remote locations across China, French Polynesia, Mongolia, Tanzania and Chad.
From Siberia to Namibia, China to Peru and South Sudan to Argentina, in all Nelson has traveled to 20 countries to photograph over 40 indigenous tribes. The project was inspired by Nelson’s fascination with the harmony between man and nature and his search for the places in the world where this was still prevalent, although often under threat from industrialisation and the theft of land and resources. The resulting photographs, shot with a 4×5 film camera, depict indigenous people in their traditional dress both against dramatic natural backdrops, or interior portraits shot in the style of Dutch old master paintings. The images are not intended as a factual, ethnographical representation, rather an aesthetic celebration and personal interpretation of the variety and beauty of indigenous culture.
In December 2016 Nelson made his most recent journey to Bhutan to photograph the traditional dancers who reside in the Upper Paro Valley in the Himalayas. The dancers are depicted against the majestic backdrop of the mountains surrounded by prayer flags clothed in traditional dress for their mask dance. These large-scale photographs, never-before published, are exhibited for the first time at Atlas Gallery.
Jimmy Nelson, Before They
24 February – 8 April 2017
49 Dorset Street
London, W1U 7NF
Book published by teNeues