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America’s wrongheaded obsession with “vanishing” indigenous peoples

“Meet the last tribes on earth, before they pass away,” reads the invitation on one of the rotating slides greeting visitors to the website of photographer Jimmy Nelson. The text fades to lay bare the image of three Himba women, backs to the camera, one carrying a young child. “Feel their breath, smell their presence, touch their souls,” reads the text placed over the photograph of a Kazakh man posing with an eagle. “Hunters, fighters, nomads, Jimmy Nelson enchanted them all,” proclaims a slide featuring a fur-clad Chukchi man gnawing on a bone while holding a knife. Each destination, the text seems to imply, served up a bed of snakes to be charmed.

Nelson’s website is devoted to the promotion of his new book, "Before They Pass Away"(TeNeues, October 2013),which features 402 color photographs of the people among whom Nelson traveled. Nelson spent three years among 30 indigenous communities, including the Huli of Papua New Guinea, the Chukchi of Russia and the Samburu of Kenya.

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