Mar 26th, 2019, 10:46 PM

Homage to Humanity

By Cinthya Franco
Jimmy Nelson in action photographing an indigenous group. Image credit:
Jimmy Nelson has been photographing cultures across five continents for over 30 years, mainly focusing on the last indigenous communities.

I woke up early and rushed to the bus. After 20 minutes knocking shoulders with the stranger next to me, I got off at the Pereire bus stop and made my way to a small coffee shop by my house. As creepy as it might sound, I enjoy watching people taking over their daily routines, I think there is certain exciting absurdity of seeing other people interact with the world. More than half of the people I watched over the course of one hour were absorbed in their phones, some of them crossing roads without making the minimal effort to lift their eyes to look ahead, whilst the other half were walking impatiently towards their awaited destination. I saw over 60 different faces, different clothes, different ethnicities, etc. Although they all varied in shape and form, it seemed that they had one thing in common. Unsurprisingly, technology had reached and made its way into each one of them, despite the differences they might all have had.

This really made me think about how I feel robotized most of the time, just like the people I aimlessly judged for one hour. It also made me think that there are so many things that are intangible nowadays, it feels like there’s always a screen in between. Because of the way digital technology intrudes into every aspect of our lives, it feels like some sense of humanity is seeping away, almost unnoticeable but with some sort of alarming significance.

I have been taking pictures since my late teens. Over the past five years, I have felt inspired and influenced by many artists. My most recent interest in photo-journalism has been fueled by Jimmy Nelson, which I came across by pure fate when my sister-in-law gifted me his last photography book, Homage to Humanity. As soon as I opened it, I felt a strong emotional bond that connected me to each one of Nelson’s pictures. They felt so natural yet so surreal because there’s so many indigenous communities I didn’t even know still existed.


BEHIND THE SCENES . @stephanievdwiel : . "With just an hour before sunrise, we are getting anxious again. We crawl under fences, clamber over rocks and walk beyond the point we’re officially allowed to go. I try to keep one eye on our disconcerted guides and the other on Jimmy. . We get to the spot he had in mind, but now we are near a deep precipice and the dancers seem nervous – there is a good reason for those fences being there! With reassuring confidence Jimmy poses the dancers with the Tiger’s Nest in the background. There’s a sheer drop on either side of Jimmy. Knowing how wild and excitable he can be once he’s in his zone, I might need to secure him with safety ropes to make sure he doesn’t fall off. . But the dancers are in position now, and as the first rays of the day reach across the landscape I can see that Jimmy is calm. He’s in the moment, capturing the moment, smiling as he makes the art he came here to make." . by @stephanievdwiel . Bhutan | 2016 . #HomageToHumanity #JimmyNelson #AllHuman #JoinJimmy #photography #culture #culturaldiversity #pride #travel #Bhutan

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When I started doing more research about this photographer that I had never heard before, I found out that Nelson hasn’t stopped traveling ever since his first experience when he was 19 in Tibet. Through his travels and photography he has developed an intimate connection with the cultures across the world. His immersive experience in each one of the remotest places on earth that he visits, is accompanied by his deep understanding of what he calls “dying cultures .” Nelson has been photographing cultures across five continents for over 30 years, mostly the last indigenous communities.

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For me, his pictures make me feel fortunate and thrilled to be living in such an extraordinary yet decaying world. These cultures only awaken admiration and surprise. I think it’s because of how impactful is to see that there are cultures out there in which technology hasn’t reach them.

His pictures certainly initiated my first interest in how technology can affect our world, it’s hard to step out of this digital world when everyone I know is submerged in it. It seems that we have lost sight and have become unaware of our world and its beauty. Nelson has published two books so far, the first one being “Before they pass away” and the second one “Homage to Humanity.” He also counts with a personal webpage where you can see most of his art prints at

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However, Nelson does not only photograph these cultures, he immerses himself in them making them part of himself, reconstructing his beliefs over and over again and changing his perspective on many aspects of the world for every person, place, experience he submerges himself into. Nelson’s work is touching and comforting.

It creates a certain awareness of the world’s incredible diversity and the importance of its precious cultures. His photographs are a kind invitation to live through his eyes such an intimate relationship and understanding of humanity, of what it is to be human. I think that his spirited self to travel the world so unswervingly committed is partially to find himself and where does he belongs. But don’t we all do that when we travel?