Photos of Isolated Tribes
December 8, 2018 8:34 PM   Subscribe

In 2018, Jimmy Nelson published his second major project titled "Homage to Humanity." He visited 34 indigenous cultures in five continents, revisiting some from his previous journey. While his first book was a collection of pictures, this time the photographer decided to expand and added travel journals, maps, local facts, and personal interviews, shifting the focus of his story from the objects he captures to the journey itself.

Nelson's website which expands his vision.
posted by MovableBookLady (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
There seems to be a whiff of Great White Savior about Nelson's goals and perhaps his methods. However, the photographs are splendid as are the stories.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:36 PM on December 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


I once had to review a grant application for a project like this and it made me feel gross.
posted by k8t at 9:14 PM on December 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


Can't speak to any of the other pictures, but no one in New Zealand dresses like that except to pose for photos or perform. This is an image of Māori that is completely decoupled from 21st century life.

I would also like to reprise my excerpt from Scott Hamilton on the previous post about Jimmy Nelson.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:11 AM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Beautiful pictures, although clearly staged.

Meanwhile, for those of you who have never danced with Borneans in Bali to the traditional State of Trance as delivered by Armin van Buuren, who have never dazzled at the carefully sculpted manes of Tokyonese Shinjiku nampa artists, and who have never unwittingly donated your shoes to the guardian spirits (aka security staff) of the Freetown airport in Sierra Leone (sneaky bastards, stole my razor too, carry-on only 4 lyfe), I suggest you get there and see these majestic dying cultures before they disappear forever.
posted by saysthis at 12:49 AM on December 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


Argentinian Gauchos are an 'Isolated Tribe'?

This whole thing is like 5 levels of ick.
posted by signal at 4:43 AM on December 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is ... pretty but not good.
(None of these people are "isolated tribes." Fetishizing "isolated tribes" and uncontacted peoples is what leads to things like that terrible missionary. There are lots of ways to travel and learn and preserve cultures and photograph in a way that is not exploitative. This is not it.)
posted by ChuraChura at 5:09 AM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yes, pretty but not good, which is what I meant by the great white savior comment. And I'm a sucker for pretty photography. I understand the cultural approach Nelson takes and the noble savage mindset he has; nevertheless, the photos are gorgeous. So I looked at them as photos, and not critically as cultural affectation. Very naive of me, I think.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:04 AM on December 9, 2018


this time the photographer decided to expand and added travel journals, maps, local facts,

so basically, here's exactly how to find these isolated people and their extant cultures. Try not to ruin anything, folks.
posted by philip-random at 10:25 AM on December 9, 2018


> I'm a sucker for pretty photography

Same. I wonder how this project could be done without all the icky feelings. I think it's great to document traditional and indigenous outfits (which seems to be what this is about), but how can it be done in a way that respects the people wearing them? Maybe using their names in the captions would be a start, so they're not anonymous others.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2018


A,photographer travels around the world, to remote locations, wins the trust of the people he photographs, and Metafilites who never leave the basement judge him.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:58 PM on December 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


My house doesn’t even have a basement, thank you very much.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:15 PM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Well, I live in the same country as one of the subjects of the photos and have much longer, deeper experience of the culture depicted than the photographer, whose previous work is contentious. I'd say that framing indigenous people as romantic subjects with white guy commentary about their noble savagery is in its own way a more limited perspective than that available to any basement dweller with an internet connection. (Basements are unusual here in NZ though).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:38 PM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


I mean, the fact dude didn't know who Pita Sharples was doesn't speak well of his understanding of his subjects. (Wikipedia link).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:41 PM on December 9, 2018


A,photographer travels around the world, to remote locations, wins the trust of the people he photographs, and Metafilites (sic) who never leave the basement judge him.

It's more like a white photographer dude travels around the world, misrepresents a bunch of regular, modern brown people as 'uncontacted natives' or some other Neo-colonial trope after 'winning their trust' by paying them to dress up and pose for him, and Mefites of different ethnicities, some of whom have direct experience with the so called 'tribes', point out how racist and appropriative this is.

The picture on his website of Aymara women standing on some noble isolated mountain peak is funny/sad if you know that there's literally hundreds of thousands of them walking around El Alto and La Paz dressed basically the same way. That's the crux of the ickiness, how he deliberately plays into the 'handful of isolated people in remote locations' and how heroic he is to have even found them and show them to the (white) world, when in reality many of these real life, modern people are a part of large, stable, globalised cultures.

It's much easier for (white) people to say 'it's a shame they're disappearing, oh well, at least this guy took pictures of them' instead of actually engaging with the way these cultures are being exploited right now and their own collective responsibility as members of the ascendant culture doing the exploiting.
posted by signal at 3:49 AM on December 10, 2018 [3 favorites]


You can actually apply many of the same criticisms aimed at Edward S. Curtis, who Nelson specifically cites as an inspiration, in that he plays into the romantic, noble, disappearing brown people cliché instead of engaging with the truths of ongoing assimilation, appropriation and exploitation or representing his subjects as actual people instead of fetish objects for white eyes.
posted by signal at 4:07 AM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


(I do leave my basement, thanks!)
posted by ChuraChura at 9:31 AM on December 10, 2018


A,photographer travels around the world, to remote locations, wins the trust of the people he photographs, and Metafilites who never leave the basement judge him.

Funny how similar all of those photographs are though isn't it.
And it's exactly those mefites who have experienced life outside of the American bubble who are protesting the exoticising, diminishing ethos of these photographs.
posted by glasseyes at 3:53 PM on December 10, 2018


"Dying cultures" saysthis? Tut.

We do not exist in order for you to be interested in us either
posted by glasseyes at 3:55 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


Tut.

Be nice to saysthis, he made a pretty good joke.

(And as a Tokyonese myself, I have been dazzled and perplexed by those labor-intensive manes.)
posted by Umami Dearest at 9:33 PM on December 10, 2018


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