I’ve always been fascinated by anthropology, but, with a father who was an anthropology professor, it’s little wonder that some of it wore off on me. In a utopian world, I think, at least, that my ideal life’s mission would be jetting off to the four corners of the world to document those people who are sort of hidden from the rest of the planet.
While he claims no title of anthropologist, photographer Jimmy Nelson did just that, setting off with an air of romanticism to capture the beauty of 31 vanishing people groups throughout the world.
In his TED Talk, Nelson describes some of the hurdles that came along with his endeavor. Soon into the project, he came to the conclusion that, if he was going to photograph these people in the dignified manner they deserved, he was going to have to get to know each and every member of the group, including “whose boyfriend is whose” and “who is allowed to kiss whom.” He explains that, specifically with the Chukchi in Siberia, he was not allowed to photograph them until he got to know and understand them.
A project like this which crosses such vast cultural divides makes our struggles of photographing wedding parties, hyper toddlers, and uncooperative models seem rather trite in comparison.