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The latest, eagerly awaited photographs by Jimmy Nelson celebrating the strength and beauty of remote indigenous cultures will be presented at Atlas Gallery in London this month, in advance of the publication in October of his new book, Jimmy Nelson: Homage to Humanity. And, for the first time, visitors will be able to meet some of Nelson’s subjects through his innovative and immersive ‘360’ films.
In both the exhibition and the book, Jimmy Nelson: Homage to Humanity, the British-born photographer pays tribute to thirty-four communities he encountered while travelling across five continents, from the Sharchop in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to the Mundari in South Sudan. The exhibition at Atlas Gallery will feature magnificent archival pigment prints. An interactive video installation will give visitors a taste of how the book will take readers on a journey behind the scenes and into the lives of his subjects, their traditions and environments. (A mobile app will give readers access to Nelson’s 360 films and additional material.)
“Jimmy is one of a kind and Homage to Humanity is a celebration of mankind on an epic scale,” says Ben Burdett, director of Atlas Gallery. “Jimmy’s dedicated his whole career to engaging with remote communities and celebrating global cultures in all their diversity. And now he’s pushing the limits of digital technology to create new connections between his subjects and his audience.”
Nelson’s artistic journey began in 2010 after he left Britain on a trek through Tibet with just one small camera. Since then, he has sought out the world’s least visible communities, integrating himself into their daily lives to understand their traditions and cultures. Struck by the values he discovered, he has endeavoured to convey their significance in a time of rapid global cultural and economic change by documenting them in majestic, staged tableaux. This desire to appreciate and preserve what is to him a symbol of the best of humanity, inspired his first publication, Before They Pass Away (2013), which has sold more than 180,000 copies worldwide.
Although Nelson’s photographs draw on each group’s traditions and rituals, his intention is to capture their striking character and particular relationship with their environment rather than create scientific documents. Nevertheless, his powerful, idealised images have served to create an international platform in the form of the Jimmy Nelson Foundation, established in 2016, to connect people across the world to discover each other’s diverse cultures.
Homage to Humanity is the next step in this process, with this book adding new depths to Nelson’s work and creating new dialogues. In addition to the iconic portraits, it includes interviews with a member of each group, infographics about their culture and location, a behind-the-scenes section, and travel stories. Homage to Humanity offers a multi-layered account of remote communities that continue to thrive and encourages us to think about the value and breadth of human traditions everywhere.