Sendo a fotografia de viagem, documentária, uma das áreas que mais me interessa e a que procuro estar atento, fui surpreendido pelo trabalho de Jimmy Nelson, que nāo conhecia.
A fotografia de Nelson é obviamente de composição estudada e edição cuidada, por oposição à fotografia espontanea e crua. Não tenho nada, absolutamente nada, contra esta opção, trata-se apenas de uma constatação de facto.
Até porque edição de imagem e manipulação digital são, pelo meu livro, duas coisas total e completamente distintas. Se a primeira, quando destinada a reaproximar a imagem registada da imagem que o fotógrafo “viu” faz parte da fotografia desde os seus primórdios, a segunda parece-me ser uma forma de expressão artística nova, contemporanea, mas que vai para alem do registo de imagens reais. Cada uma na sua prateleira, portanto.
Já a composição é pedra base da imagem gravada, desde a Arte rupestre, aos Grandes Mestres da pintura e aos fotógrafos.
Tudo isto para falar de Jimmy Nelson e do projecto “Before They Pass Away”, uma iniciativa fascinante que o levou a visitar e conviver com 31 tribos em risco de extinção ou, pelo menos, perda de identidade cultural e étnica.
Que inveja …
Jimmy Nelson (Sevenoaks, Kent, 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. 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, he was commissioned to cover a variety of culturally newsworthy themes, 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 produced Literary Portraits of China, a 30 month project that brought 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 worldwide tour.
From 1997 onwards Jimmy began to successfully undertake 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. Many awards followed. When he started to successfully and internationally exhibit and sell these images, this created the subsequent momentum and enthusiasm for the initiation of Before they Pass Away.
The purity of humanity exists. It is there in the mountains, the ice fields, the jungle, along the rivers and in the valleys. Jimmy Nelson found the last tribesmen and observed them. He smiled and drank their mysterious brews before taking out his camera. He shared what real people share: vibrations, invisible but palpable. He adjusted his antenna to the same frequency as theirs. As trust grew, a shared understanding of the mission developed: the world must never forget the way things were.
There is a pure beauty in their goals and family ties, their belief in gods and nature, and their will to do the right thing in order to be taken care of when their time comes. Whether in Papua New Guinea or in Kazakhstan, in Ethiopia or in Siberia, tribes are the last resorts of natural authenticity.
‘’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.
Elegant and evocative portraits created with a 4×5 camera. The detail that is attained by using such large negatives would provide an extraordinary view into the emotional and spiritual lives of the last indigenous peoples of the world. At the same time, it would glorify their varying and unique cultural creativity with their painted faces, scarified bodies, jewellery, extravagant hairstyles and ritual language.”