When I first saw the book, Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson, I was so taken with all the images that I immediately wanted one. Luckily, it’s a very pricey book so I never took the plunge and purchased one.
And that might be a good thing.
I recently saw a post on Survival International denouncing the authenticity of the photos. The book is supposed to be representative of how ancient civilizations have lived for thousands of years but, as Survival International points out, the book is more a fantastical look through a photographer’s lens.
They challenge the idea that the images accurately represent the tribes in the photographs and uses the example of the Waorani tribe wearing fig leaves to cover their private parts (something they have never done).
I think it’s an interesting debate.
On the one hand, I’d like to think the photographer was sincere in his desire to photograph these tribes in order to raise awareness of their existence and perhaps have some hand in saving them.
On the other hand, for an organization like Survival International, whose goal is to support tribal peoples’ rights, to denounce the book, carries a lot of weight. Before They Pass Away, they say, ignores the real atrocities that are occurring against the tribes and romanticizing them in photographs that are not true to life, does them a disservice.
As someone with a strong interest in tribal rights, I have to say I’m leaning toward Survival International’s point of view. But I also recognize that there’s a fine line between what Jimmy Nelson has created and me traveling to Papua New Guinea to visit tribes who are performing in singsings with hundreds of tourists in attendance.
Where do you draw the line between real and fantasy?
I’m not sure.
Add a comment