My mum sent me the most fantastic link the other day. A photographer named Jimmy Nelson traveled to the farthest, most remote places on the earth and took photographs of the tribes he found there. He’s published a book called Before They Pass Away to document their cultures, which are disappearing into the past. We are losing something. Something wonderful.
And as I look through these photographs on my Macbook against the backdrop of the city from inside my building, which was built in 1927, it’s impossible not to feel a part of it, of the disappearance, of the transformation in our world(s). To feel colonized and colonizing. But click the link above and follow the trail it takes you to another time, to other places, uninhabited by our modern western confusions.
It would be a mistake to oversimplify the process, to fetishize these indigenous cultures, to assume, to paraphrase Susan Sontag, that by seeing them, we know them, but that isn’t the value for me. For me the value lies in the mirror it holds up to me, to my culture, as if we can know ourselves without ever questioning our own assumptions.
Finally, it just makes me feel connected, these people wear clothes that are foreign to me, but their expressions are all too familiar. I see my mother, my father, my brother, my best friends. I see my humanity. Capturing that, engaging with that, is possibly the most important thing we can do in an era when entire cultures and histories and species are disappearing right before our very eyes.
We mustn’t lose that, our empathy, our interest, our responsibility, our care along with everything else.