Jimmy & Projects



The project in Short


Dutch-English artist Jimmy Nelson (Sevenoaks, 1967) has worked as a photographer for the last thirty years and is the initiator of the Jimmy Nelson Foundation. At the age of 16, he was accidentally prescribed the wrong medication and suffered from Alopecia totalis, in which a person suffers total hair loss. At the Jesuit boarding school he attended at the time, his subsequent baldness was mistaken for a sign of awkward rebellion. Thus he felt socially isolated. As a result, Jimmy unconsciously initiated his quest of finding  a place where he felt comfortable in the world. At the age of 17, his choice was Tibet, where according to his own naive and romantic research, all young men were bald and where he felt he could find empathy. This was the catalyst for his unending search for human connection.


In his inevitable search for self, Jimmy visited the world’s most eclectic variety of peoples with their own cultures, aesthetics and languages. He decided to visually dignify the people he met on his way. His work is characterized by its romantic, iconic and celebratory style. His images were initially bundled in his first book Before They Pass Away, of which over 200.000 copies were sold. This success, in part caused by an element of controversy, was the catalyst for his lifelong mission; to pay homage to indigenous cultures as a message for greater humanity. 



In January 2016 he started travelling, with the wish of creating a body of work, in which the observer gets taken on a journey. By gathering interviews, stories, film and 360 material, next to his visual, photographic documentation, the start of an immersive experience was born. In September 2018 Homage to Humanity was launched, accompanied by a Webby Award-winning application, which allows the reader to unlock digital layers of the book. By scanning the images, film material is  revealed, through which Jimmy takes the viewer on a personal journey of human connection and the importance thereof. All of the chapters feature a 360 film, giving the reader a fully immersive experience behind the scenes, by using the cardboard virtual reality  glasses included with the book. 


With every new journey he undertakes, Jimmy witnesses rapid changes that have a negative impact on the planet. Changes to which the world seems to be indifferent.  In 2016, he therefore,established a foundation, to highlight the wealth of a culturally rich and diverse world. The Jimmy Nelson Foundation is concerned about the way in which globalization affects our cultural heritage. The foundation provides an inclusive platform, aimed at generating appreciation for cultural diversity, by organising projects for documentation and education about indigenous cultures, whilst enabling the communities to reinvest in themselves. The Foundation's most prominent project opened with a short film, titled Blink. And they’re gone, after which the Preservation Robot was launched to help humans preserve cultural identity, by turning the internet against itself.

Homage to Humanity

Homage to Humanity

With his new book Homage to Humanity photographer Jimmy Nelson and his team will be presenting an all immersive experience that invites you on an extraordinary journey. Next to Nelson’s established iconic photography, this new book will contain personal interviews with the portrayed individuals, compelling travel stories and infographics. This new assemblage of remarkable voyages is accompanied by an state-of-the-art mobile application that will allow readers to view 360 ̊ film material, behind the scenes video, storytelling, and more. Welcoming you on a odyssey to the remotest and most beautiful places on earth. Therefore this book will not only be an adventure, but an investigation into a far more in-depth catalyst of ethnographic discussion as to the lasting values and importance of these precious cultures.

Since his first internationally acclaimed exploration through Tibet almost 30 years ago, Jimmy Nelson has travelled to the world’s most hidden corners to photograph indigenous peoples. In 2013 he published his first book Before They Pass Away, with which his lifelong dream, to create awareness about the world’s unimaginable diversity, became reality. The name chosen for this project had roused attention as it may give the impression that he pessimistically saw the sealed fate of those peoples he had come to meet. And maybe this is how he initially felt. But since he published his first book, his sustained and amazing interaction with the


most diverse range of peoples have made him backtrack on this view. Where there are challenges, there are solutions. He has come to appreciate the pride, strength, vigour, honour and resilience of the people he asked to pose for his lens. This provides him with an unending inspiration to continue his work and set up the Jimmy Nelson Foundation.

The book with the  included mobile application will reveal an intimate insight to the peoples of over thirty iconic cultures from around the world. It will give you the opportunity to be captivated into unknown and unspoiled realms, filled with the pageantry of ancient tradition. From the Himalayas with the Sharchop in Bhutan to the Mundari on the dry, isolated vast plains of South Sudan. The images are fascinating, if slightly unsettling and transcend rich cultural prosperity, symbolism and pride in the face of the looming threat of modern society. Contrasted by the (360) film that will not only take you to the dazzling splendor, but also the reality of day-to-day life of our ever-changing planet. At the junction between civilisations, we are forced to question and search beyond our familiar frames of reference, towards a deeper understanding of humanity. More info







You can scan the images everywhere you see them in print, wall and digital!

(so also without the book)




Before They Pass Away

Before They Pass Away

Jimmy’s dream has always been to create awareness about our world’s indigenous cultures through his photography. He has wanted to create a visual document that shows us and future generations the beauty of how they live. Like Edward Sheriff Curtis, the famous American ethnologist and photographer, who documented the North American Indians at the beginning of last century, he wanted to create carefully orchestrated portraits of these amazing peoples, at their absolute proudest.

Since 2010, Jimmy Nelson has traveled to the world’s most fascinating locations to photograph indigenous cultures. On his journeys he is continuously witnessing the speed with which the amazing communities are embracing the future. He has come to realize, after a life spent traveling, that his camera is the perfect tool for making contact and building intimate and unique connections.

Jimmy Nelson is not an anthropologist or a man of science. He does not claim to have the knowledge to address the questions we have about indigenous and other traditional cultures. He is a photographer and a storyteller. What started as a naive engagement with the peoples he met during work assignments, has over a period of three decades turned into a personal project. The book Before They Pass Away is an homage to the cultures he will probably never fully understand, but which will never stop luring him on this unending journey of (self) exploration.

His experiences on these journeys have made a lasting impression on him. There is a great humility in how he has seen wealth defined by the cultures he has met. Where Jimmy is from, they are learnt to strive for material possessions. He feels that centuries of that conception have brought the world to the brink of ecological and political disaster. Many of the peoples he has visited have a different conception of value, with lives so symbiotically and sustainably connected to their surroundings, virtually merging the two together. They provide ongoing lessons for us all.

Before They Pass Away is not meant to convey a documentary truth. The portraits in the book are Jimmy’s own artistic and creative interpretation of the people he has met. He has focused on the beauty that struck him as an outsider. He wanted to create icons. Beautiful and positive images of strong and proud people. This approach is unquestionably romantic. He hopes his esteem and admiration for the people photographed are reflected by the result.

The name chosen for this project has roused attention. Before They Pass Away may give the impression that he pessimistically saw the sealed fate of those peoples he had come to meet. And maybe this is how he initially felt. But since he first published the book in 2013, his sustained and amazing interaction with the most diverse range of peoples have made him backtrack on this view. Where there are challenges, there are solutions. he has come to appreciate the pride, strength, vigour, honour and resilience of the people he asked to pose for his lens. This provides him with an unending inspiration to continue his work.

In this light, ‘before’ attains a meaning that is diametrically opposed to the fatalistic reading of doom. ‘Before’ signals a moment of opportunity, a call for action and an appeal. To decide with confidence that we value what we have and will take our support into the future.

Margaret Mead, a great social anthropologist, once said: “Having been born into a polychromatic world of cultural diversity, it is my fear that our grandchildren will awake into a monochromatic world not ever having known anything else”.



Jimmy Nelson (UK, 1967) started working as a photographer in 1987. Having spent 10 years at a Jesuit boarding school in the North of England, he set off on his own to traverse the length of Tibet on foot (1985). The journey lasted a year and upon his return his unique visual diary, featuring revealing images of a previously inaccessible Tibet, was published to wide international acclaim.

Soon after (1987) he was commissioned to cover a variety of culturally newsworthy themes for many of the world leading publications ranging from the Russian involvement in Afghanistan and the ongoing strife between India and Pakistan in Kashmir to the beginning of the war in former Yugoslavia.

In early 1994 he and his Dutch wife Ashkaine Hora Adema produced “Literary Portraits of China”. A coffee table book about all indigenous cultures in China and their translated literature. The book was the result of a forty month project that took them to all the hidden corners of the newly opening People’s Republic. Upon its completion the images were exhibited in the People’s Palace on Tiananmen Square, Beijing, and then followed by a successful worldwide tour.

From 1997 onwards, Jimmy successfully undertook commercial advertising assignments for many of the world’s leading brands. At the same time he started accumulating images of remote and unique cultures photographed with a traditional 50-year-old plate camera and awards followed.

In 2010 he began his journey to create the iconic artistic document that became “Before They pass Away”. After visiting 35 chosen Indigenous communities, part 1 was published to International acclaim at the beginning of 2014 and received many awards.

Today Jimmy is promoting his new book Homage to Humanity. His communication and his passion are found on a far wider platform. He is exhibiting at International Museums, shows his work at the world’s leading Photographic Art galleries, speaking at international conferences and launched the Jimmy Nelson Foundation in October 2016.


The Jimmy Nelson Foundation cares about a dignified future for indigenous cultures in the world. As an homage to their heritage, we therefore started a search for curious and innovative ways of multimedia (self)documentation projects. Ones of colourful stories, proud faces and breathtaking insights. This search was born from the wish, to bring the world closer to those who were often not seen or heard.

With our unique initiative ‘Circles of Cultural Connection’ we realise projects that take place at the moment indigenous cultures are at their most celebrative: traditional cultural festivals. What’s more, is that during the projects the indigenous peoples themselves will now also be the ones holding the cameras. With international young and talented creatives who have joined CCC, we join visions together and capture the behind the scenes imagery, connect with new people and listen to each other’s stories. It is an exciting collaboration between worlds.  With each project, we share the material on our online platforms, inviting all of us to immerse in a different culture and to explore what it is like, when we look at the world through different eyes.


So why is this important, now? In front of a decor of fading cultural colours and globalisation, these projects highlight what is still out there. Giving cultures the positive platform they deserve is, that is what moves us. We believe that by showing the world through the eyes of ‘the other’, we understand and cherish the heritage of our world more. And the biggest revelation could be, that it may even teach us about ourselves, about our planet and - most importantly of all - how to look after it for generations to come.

The Jimmy Nelson Foundation began its journey in 2016 as a right of passage to bring people from all corners of the planet together. We believe in the power of putting individuals on a pedestal, to support and admire them for the magnificent human beings they are. By igniting the fire of cultural pride, we empower future generations to illuminate their cultural heritage  - before our world has changed forever.  Join us on this journey. Become a Friend or sponsor of our projects, www.jimmynelsonfoundation.com.