Before They Pass Away: A Photographer Races After Vanishing Tribes

By Jane Hwang - 2014-01-07T15:48:54Z

Photograph by Jimmy Nelson BV courtesy teNeues

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The Kazakhs of Mongolia

The Kazakhs descend from Turkic, Mongolian and Iranian tribes. There are only a few hundred eagle hunters left who train the birds to hunt animals like foxes and rabbits for their furs. Traditionally, the skills needed to train the eagles are passed down to the next generation. The rest of the Kazakhs have modernized and now live in neighboring Kazakhstan, Before They Pass Away explains. Jimmy Nelson narrates a remarkable near-miss:

"We had to wait two days for the right conditions. When on the third try we finally got the perfect light, I took my gloves off and started taking pictures. But it was so excruciatingly cold my hands froze within seconds. I couldn’t feel them anymore and started crying. Out of pain, but mostly out of frustration. Right in front of me was the picture I spent years dreaming of, and now I couldn’t make it. Behind me were two of the women who, unknown to me, had walked up the mountain with us. … one woman opened her jackets and grabbed my hands while the other put her arms around me. They enveloped and held me tight for a number of minutes, humming softly in the howling winds. All the while the men stayed on their horses, balancing in the howling wind and subzero temperatures, not moving a muscle. When I could feel my fingers again, I turned around to my camera, they raised their chins one last time and I took two pictures. We nodded respectfully to one another and then left the mountain." 

Left: Altantsogts, Bayan Oglii, March 2011