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THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S STORY

JIMMY NELSON
I photographed Yakim in the middle of the tundra; the power of his face drew me in. In winter, temperatures can dip as low as -50°C, and Nenets men wear a malitsa, a coat with a hood made from reindeer skins. In extremely cold conditions, they add another layer of reindeer fur. Women wear a yagushka, a double layer of reindeer skins, and both sexes wear hip-high reindeerskin boots. Everything the Nenets have – their clothes, their tents, their food, their transport – comes from reindeer. They play a vital role.
PHOTO © JIMMY NELSON PICTURES BV, BEFORETHEY.COM, FACEBOOK.COM/JIMMY.NELSON.BTPA

THE NENETS OF SIBERIA

Since I began working full-time on my project, Before They, in 2010, I’ve photographed 35 indigenous cultures and tribes. The idea is to show, in an artistic, subjective way, how important cultural heritage and diversity are, aesthetically. My argument is that these people have been misrepresented – documented in a patronising, often demeaning way, because they’re looked upon as poor. I’m trying to give them the attention, time and dignity we give ourselves when we consider ourselves important. The pictures are very stylised – most were staged, and all were made with a plate flm camera, a slow, old-fashioned process. Going in with the opportunity to make only a few pictures, you have to really make contact before pressing the shutter.

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