But from the beginning: Mr. Nelson, how did you get into photography?
Jimmy Nelson: This happened when I was seventeen years old, when I left boarding school in the United Kingdom, and I spent two years walking across Tibet. As a documentation of that journey, I took an old camera with me and four rolls of film. Those films were published upon my return at the age of nineteen, in 1988. That was the beginning of my journey of photography.
When, how and why did you find your topic?
Jimmy Nelson: I think I found my topic on this journey, when I was seventeen and travelling through Tibet. This topic of a respectful representation and love for indigenous cultures around the planet. I have been doing that for essentially the biggest part of my life. Even as a child, I lived in many different places due to my father who worked as a geographer.
According to which criteria do you decide where to photograph?
Jimmy Nelson: This has to be based on a geographically isolated location. The communities are very much deeply and aesthetically in touch with their culture, living in some of the world’s last and most untouched natural settings. I used to choose them, by default they now choose me due to the online recognition of the project.
How do you approach the people?
Jimmy Nelson: You approach the people with an enormous amount of patience, time, humility, generosity, fragility and, ultimately, love.
How do you manage to work with people so intensively and with such closeness?
Jimmy Nelson: This is much the same: the intensitivity of the closeness is out of respect and fragility and vulnerability on behalf of me visiting. Very little time is spent taking pictures, an awful lot of time is spent sitting, listening, touching, dancing, laughing and showing respect and interest.
Has it ever happened, that you went home without a photo?
Jimmy Nelson: I have always gone home with pictures. Whether these are pictures that I want is debatable. I often return to communities because I want to raise the standard of the pictures.
How are the group pictures created?
Jimmy Nelson: The group pictures are created with an enormous amount of patience, time and dignity. The idea behind them is to create an artistic iconic representation of how these people stand, live, hold, believe, and cherish their proud culture in these untouched natural settings. I am also trying to create some sort of visual signature, so people can recognise that I have made them.
Especially with regard to the staged group pictures – Mr. Lindemann, what is it about Jimmy Nelson's photography that you consider makes it unique?
Lars Lindemann: His work is somewhat dreamy, which provokes a controversial discussion within the world of photography; but it is in this manner that he reaches many, many people, and makes them aware of the threat of cultural loss everywhere. Of course, in the process he paints a very idealised image of the ethnicities under threat. Even communities in the Amazon region, where contact had only recently been established, are already wearing football shirts from Bayern München or Real Madrid – it's only rarely that they look the way Jimmy portrays them in his pictures. This is increasingly confirmed by GEO photographers returning from reportage trips into isolated parts of the world; but that's exactly what the issue is for Jimmy. He shows symbolically the cultural aspects that could be irretrievably lost. The external appearance is representative for the diverse features of the cultures, such as language and rituals.