James “Jimmy” Philip Nelson (born 1967) known professionally as Jimmy Nelson, is an English photographer. He is known for his portraits of tribal and indigenous peoples.
Background and early career
James Philip Nelson was born in 1967 in Sevenoaks, Kent. He spent his childhood in Africa, Asia and South America, traveling around with his father, who worked as a geologist for International Shell. At the age of 7, he was sent to Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit boarding school in Lancashire, UK. When he was 16, he suffered from Alopecia totalis, a condition in which all the hair falls out, which was caused by a culmination of stress and a reaction to malaria medication.
In 1985, at age 17, he left his boarding school and started to trek the length of Tibet on foot. He took a small camera on his trip and photographed his journey, which lasted about two years. Upon return, the collection of pictures he had taken in the formerly inaccessible country were published by the English National Geographic, to wide international acclaim.
Following this journey, Nelson embarked on more trips, documenting a variety of war zones, including Afghanistan, Kashmir, Yugoslavia, Somalia and El Salvador, and started to work as a professional photojournalist, until the age of 24.
In 1992 Nelson was commissioned by Shell Oil to produce the book “Literary Portraits of China”. He travelled across the country for 30 months, together with his then wife, Ashkaine Hora Adema, who participated in the making of the book, and became the subsequent business partner of Nelson.
From 1997 and onwards, Nelson began working in the commercial advertising field. During this time, he continued collecting images of remote and isolated cultures.
Nelson was married to his wife, Ashkaine Hora Adema for 23 years, and as of 2018, they separated. Nelson and Adema have three children together. Nelson is currently based in Amsterdam, where his company Jimmy Nelson Pictures B.V. is located.