A four day trip to McG involves a bag full of gadget leads, a Kindle, PC, iPad, iPod and camera. A box with a new food processor/juicer/blender, an automatic cleaner for the pool, towels and bed linen and all manner of things to read, write on and eat. So much for the simple life, of a suburban girl, in a small village, on the outskirts of a large desert.
At the other end of the village, people are using the packaging provided by the boxes I have bought, to insulate their homes against the wind and still-chilly Karoo nights. No electrical sockets for rechargers.
I live in a secure concrete structure, with hot water on demand and indoor plumbing. My refrigerator keeps my food cool and fresh, I connect with people all over the world in myriad ways: phone, email, internet, face-time and skype. And, if I need medical help – it is right around the corner. Yet sometimes I still moan about how life can be challenging.
I saw these pictures the other day and they brought me up short. “Before They Pass Away,” is a long-term project by photographer Jimmy Nelson – who gives us the unique opportunity to discover more than 30 slowly vanishing tribes from all over the world. Some of whom live in almost prehistoric conditions. Or rebuild their shelters 10 times a year, enduring minus 40 degree cold as they ride their herds across icy blasted plains.‘’In 2009, I planned to become a guest of 31 secluded and visually unique tribes. I wanted to witness their time-honoured traditions, join in their rituals and discover how the rest of the world is threatening to change their way of life forever. Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world.”
Nelson spent two weeks with each tribe – assimilating as well as he could into their lives, but always aware that his time made him more tourist than local. The resultant images are gorgeous and detailed. He has been able to showcase the clothing, jewellery, surroundings and cultural elements most important to each tribe. And has captured the attitude and stance through the way they have presented themselves to his camera. I was mesmerised.
“Before They Pass Away” is a huge body of work – 500 images captured in a massive book and I couldn’t include them all here. But it is worth twenty minutes of your time to check them all out on his website. The excursions were documented on film and will be extended into a documentary. I will be first in line in SA to see it.