Before They Pass Away (A Critical Poem of Discovery)

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 12.42.43 PMSaw a reference to this body of work by photographer Jimmy Nelson on Facebook, and went down a little 20 minute rabbit hole

I also found this, an article about Photographer Jimmy Nelson’s “Before They Pass Away” portraiture, translated from the Russian

Here is my little short take on this:

These photos are

so produced,

so directed

so unreconstructed

so premodern

so unremittingly beautiful

so layered with brought meanings

so different depending on the context in which they’re presented

so “important”–

Yet… are they important?

(I would argue that, to the degree I speculate the pictures seek to all-but-deny the arrival of globalization in their subject’s lives, they lose most of their potential importance.)

ANd I guess it pretty much stops there for me, now that I think of it.

But back to the pictures to see if I’m misreading them.

They’re just so… slick

So self-consciously definitive

so humorless

they’re culture porn.

But then again,

why should this kind of photography

like the plainspoken wedding portrait in the American Gothic model

or the sonnet in poetry

be any less relevant today

than in the eighteen hundreds

Than when Edward S Curtis did it.

Or Ansel, for that matter, with his mountains?

People are still striving and considering that work

to be of an unattainable standard.

Oh! Duh! They’re Romantic. Shit, that’s what it is!

They’re just plain Romantic is all.

Like a good sturdy still life of food on a table, arranged Flemishly,

Its value is intrinsic (if generally finite).

This work won’t be received by the photography-as-art establishment.

Jörg Colberg and Jonathan Blaustien won’t be reviewing it anytime soon I bet.

So maybe it is what it is,

Maybe it’s a book to make a cable TV special about*

and a book to sell a ZILLION copies of

in the lobby of all the Barnes & Nobles in the world

for Now! Just! $29.95!, marked down from a $75 sticker**

with gold embossed print on the cover and the spine.

Did that sound bitchy?

Well I’ll tell you this, I wish I’d done it.

Sure, I would have done it differently,

But he’s the one that did it.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 1.01.34 PM


*Oh SHIT, did you SEE that film? What a crazy thing! I didn’t see it until after I’d written this. What a festival of self aggrandizement! I’m trying to think, at any point in this whole film do we hear the voice of a single one of the supposed subjects?
** Maybe the book is a bit pricier than $29.95!


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