Jimmy Nelson

Dutch-British, 1967–present

Artist Nelson (born in Sevenoaks, England) has worked as a photographer for the last thirty years and is the initiator of the Jimmy Nelson Foundation. At the age of 16, he was accidentally prescribed the wrong medication and suffered from Alopecia totalis, in which a person suffers total hair loss. At the Jesuit boarding school, he attended at the time, his subsequent baldness was mistaken for a sign of awkward rebellion. Thus he felt socially isolated. As a result, Nelson unconsciously initiated his quest of finding a place where he felt comfortable in the world. At the age of 17, his choice was Tibet, where according to his own naive and romantic research, all young men were bald and where he felt he could find empathy. This was the catalyst for his unending search for human connection.

In his inevitable search for self, Nelson visited the world’s most eclectic variety of peoples with their own cultures, aesthetics and languages. He decided to visually dignify the people he met on his way. His work is characterized by its romantic, iconic and celebratory style. His images were initially bundled in his first book Before They Pass Away and gained unprecedented attention worldwide. This success, in part caused by an element of controversy, was the catalyst for his lifelong mission; to pay homage to indigenous cultures as a message for greater humanity.