Fotografiska Tallinn

Opening hours

10:00 - 23:00
10:00 - 23:00
10:00 - 23:00
10:00 - 23:00
10:00 - 22:00
10:00 - 21:00

Jimmy Nelson eternalizes the soul of disappearing nations

Museum - Open today 10:00 ― 23:00

Homage to Humanity, the exhibition by Jimmy Nelson, is meaningful in several ways.  It's one of the four shows that Fotografiska opened its doors with last month, in June. This exhibition is an extraordinary chance to share with the whole world what he has seen and experienced during his distant journeys.

There are about 7.5 billion people in the world. Nations, tribes, and cultures that Jimmy photographs while traveling are usually small and in danger of disappearing. According to Jimmy, their relationship with surrounding nature is something that the rest of the world is slowly forgetting. In contrast to the small numbered population, the connection with roots, land, and nature makes these nations the most influential people on earth. By capturing those people, Jimmy eternalizes the human soul.



Photography helped to escape from the darkness

Jimmy's relationship with photography and disappearing nations are very personal. Until the age of seven, the artist had a fairytale childhood, thanks to his geologist father who traveled the world. "I was just like Mowgli - naked most of the time, climbing in trees and I felt free," Jimmy remembers his childhood. "When I started school in England at seven years old, I found myself among 1000 students and 400 priests. I couldn't read nor write, and photos of childhood friends with different skin colour caused a strange gaze and bafflement. I discovered that others consider me stupid and poor because of illiteracy and free childhood," describes Jimmy on how he started to distance himself from emotions and became indrawn in his youth. Somber darkness is the reason why Jimmy has a special relationship with natural light that he always tries to capture to his photos. Even so, if it requires hours, sometimes days.

Jimmy considers Tintin, the hero of his youth - a comic character with the roots in Belgium. Besides helping to escape from reality, Tintin also symbolizes Jimmy's journey to photography. Remembering Tintin's adventures in Tibet, a 17-year-old Jimmy decided to travel to Tibet with a one-way ticket right after school. While there and having four roll films in his pockets, Jimmy met kind people. Those people took Jimmy as one of his own and looked after him despite having difficulties of a current foreign power at that time. Jimmy captured his two year trip on four roll films. From somber darkness, a light started to appear gradually.



Stolen reality or noble photographic art?

There's been said about Jimmy Nelson's photos that he uses a camera for reflecting his soul through others. Indeed, unexceptionally all of his exhibition's photos find a way to guests' hearts. The viewer turns into viewable, and it's deliberate from the author's perspective - people from distant nations, tribes, and cultures become more and more familiar because they remind us where are we coming from.

Jimmy Nelson's photos show the nobility in man. None of these are arbitrary, and models are put on the pedestal with pride. Critics claim that this decreases the value of the pictures because instead of everyday life, he portrays the most beautiful part of different nations and cultures, finished intricately. "In my opinion, you can work in two ways as a photographer. Arrangement with the model provides a unique chance to capture their most exquisite side. And you can make photos in secret. In both cases, the picture is truthful, although covertly taken pictures are stolen reality that abducts human's dignity," explains Jimmy, his philosophy as an artist. "I want to capture people in a way they'd like to present themselves," he continues. Ironically, his photos are much more honest and genuine compared to secretly made pictures of people's everyday tasks.

To capture human souls on the picture, Jimmy lives together with people from different nations and tribes for some time. It enables become part of the community and helps to get the feel about different characters. Often you don't have verbal ways to interact with the locals, only eyes, hands, and body posture. Words and its meanings need to be communicated with body language and to do that you need to let go of your ego. Respect for local customs and every member of the community gradually melts the barrier between the native and stranger. So, that at one point locals want to come to the picture themselves and help to make it work, not only as a model but a backstage team member.



Pictures come alive thanks to the companion app

Every captured photo is an explicit moment during the fraction of second.  Becoming a member of the community and taking actual pictures can be a weeks-long process. Jimmy Nelson's exhibition is enhanced by the 2019 WEBBY Award-winning mobile application that opens the behind the scenes world to curious viewers. All the photos of his world premiere exhibition in Tallinn come to life with the help of this app.

The text is based on Photo Talks with Jimmy Nelson event that took place in Fotografiska Tallinn on 20th June. The exhibition "Homage to Humanity" will be in Fotografiska Tallinn until 8th September, in the heart of Telliskivi Creative City in the building so far known as the Red Building.

Next to Jimmy Nelson's work other three opening exhibitions are "In Character" by Anja Niemi (Norway), "Distant Land" by Pentti Sammallahti (Finland), and Anna-Stina Treumund (Estonia) "Lilli, Reed, Frieda, Sabine, Eha, Malle, Alfred, Rein, and Mari."

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