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Jimmy Nelson keynote speaker

Jimmy Nelson

speaker location icon Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Award-winning photographer of indigenous cultures from all over the world

Inspirational speaker on the power of communication across cultural boundaries

Popular TED speaker

Jimmy Nelson is an award-winning photographer whose ambition and mission it is to make an iconic document of indigenous cultures, and to leave a visual heritage for present and future generations. He wants to create an aesthetic photographic and film document that will stand the test of time. His work will be a catalyst for further discussion as to the authenticity and beauty of these fragile disappearing cultures.

Since 2010 Jimmy Nelson has been travelling around the world to document some of the most iconic indigenous cultures left on the planet today. He has come to realize, after a life spent travelling, that his camera is the perfect tool for making contact and building intimate and unique friendships. Jimmy has the ability to establish relationships with relatively unknown communities in some of the last untouched corners of the planet. On his journeys he is continuously witnessing the speed in which these amazing communities are embracing the future.

Jimmy is not a studied scientist but rather a self-educated ethnologist and visual anthropologist, who through curiosity is trying to find answers. His passion is to tell verbal and visual stories that leave room for the recipient’s questions. With this project Jimmy wants to increase awareness of the fascinating variety of indigenous people. He also tries to stress the importance of the knowledge and wisdom we can gain from the heritage behind their rites, customs and traditions.

What Jimmy is showing us with his pictures and stories, is just the tip of the iceberg. He has consciously chosen fragile communities, based on their geographical and traditional extravagance, but above all for their illuminating beauty.

What drives him is not compassion for poverty or illness, but passion for décor and embellishment. Painted bodies are mirrors of pure souls. Tattooed faces are messages in flesh, worn as a second skin. Above all else, it is his fascination for the rapidly vanishing harmony between man and nature takes us to places we thought had disappeared long ago.

He asks us, will we manage to save the fragile umbilical cord to our extraordinary primeval past? Or will we cut it with scissors of ignorance and thus potentially finding ourselves alone without a cultural purpose?

Or like Margeret Mead, a great social anthropologist, once said: “Having been born into a polychromatic world of cultural diversity, it is my fear that our grandchildren will awake into a monochromatic world not ever having known anything else”

A collection of Jimmy’s photos, Before They Pass Away, was published in 2013. He is now working on the follow-up volume.

In 2016, Jimmy Nelson and his team launched the Jimmy Nelson Foundation. The organisation’s aim is to foster appreciation for cultural diversity and to connect people from all over the world to celebrate polychromatic cultural identity. In Jimmy’s words: “Maybe we can come to the realization that we are one, by learning from each other.”

Our Comment

"In his talks, Jimmy's focus is as much on the stories behind the photographs as the images themselves. Each photo is the physical expression of a relationship that was built by crossing cultural boundaries, boundaries that seemed insurmountable on the surface. Jimmy shows how - through authenticity and having the courage to show vulnerability - we can reach across these divides and connect to the humanity we hold in common. "

At TED Global (2014)

[youtube https://www.ted.com/talks/jimmy_nelson_gorgeous_portraits_of_the_world_s_vanishing_people?language=en]

TEDx - Before They Pass Away (2013)

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