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Before They’re Gone

Before They’re Gone

As we stop to recognise the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9, spare a thought for the tribes that may disappear before we even knew they existed. These stunning portraits of the Tsaatan (reindeer people) in Mongolia are part of a series of photographs of the world’s most remote tribes and indigenous people, who may soon disappear without a trace.

The last of the region’s reindeer herders, the Tsaatan survived for thousands of years, inhabiting the remotest sub-Arctic taiga, moving between five and 10 times a year. Today, only 44 families remain, their existence threatened by the dwindling number of their domesticated reindeer. The Tsaatan are one of 30 indigenous cultures captured by photographer Jimmy Nelson for his book and soon-to-be film Before They Pass Away.

Over four years, Nelson documented these slowly vanishing tribes from all over the world through his camera lens. Spending two weeks with each tribe, he became acquainted with their time-honoured traditions, joined their rituals and captured it all visually.

According to Nelson, his mission was to assure that the world never forgets how things used to be: “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.”

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