A few months ago a Dutch TV program had an item on photographer Jimmy Nelson and his book project Before They Pass Away. It was a compelling story revolving around his drive to capture the stories of tribes. He writes:
My dream has always been to preserve our world’s tribes through my photography. Not to stop change from happening – because I know I can’t – but to create a visual document reminding us, and the generations after us, of the beauty of pure and honest living. And of all the important things it teaches us.
The book features 464 – mostly large – photographs of 27 tribes all over the globe. It is impossible to flip through this book simply because its too large and too heavy. When open it measures 72 by 36 cm, almost too large to hold as it gets to heavy after a while. And note this is just the normal version, with a whopping 98 by 59 cm, the XXL edition is HUGE. It actually takes some effort to go from one page to the next, so one is forced to pay careful attention to each and any photograph and the texts that describe the tribes living styles. The physical size and weight of the book thus play a very nice trick on the reader that forces attention. It’s a trick we will certainly use in our work.
Beyond the physical, like with any good and compelling story database it is impossible to convey its spirit. There are simply to many images that would deserve more attention here. Still I choose to show this image on the left. It struck my eye as it seems to tell at least three different stories of connection, distance and a sense of security. For me it is hard to escape from the wish to listen to more stories by those people and by people in the images on all pages of the book.
This urge is quite central to successful PNI. When the people that share a story are able to read stories from others, they tend to respond with sharing more stories and taking the augmented set of stories on with then when the meeting is over. We have seen this happen when people are first confronted with a set of stories and start to work with them. A connection emerges that seems to wake a need to bring those stories further into their organisation or community. This way its not the PNI facilitator but the participants help stories where they need to go after the meeting, just like Jimmy Nelson has just captured the stories of these tribes with his plate camera and now relies on us and future generations to help them to go where they need to go. His work is finished, he has facilitated us to continue the work he started.
So for us at StoryConnect this is as much a textbook to improve our skills as it is a very nice and interesting document. That is why we choose this book as our Xmas gift this year. Copies were ordered and dispatched worldwide. Last week the last copy was delivered so this seems the right time for this post. We will work hard in 2015 to come closer to achieving the goal of helping stories go where they need to go. That can be images of citizens that need to go to city hall and have their impact there, or it can be a short voice recording of a sales manager that must be heard and taken to heart by people with roles unknown to him. Jimmy Nelson formulates this well when he writes:
… this project isn’t about me; it’s a catalyst for something bigger. If we could start a global movement that documents and shares images, thoughts and stories about tribal life both old and new, maybe we could save part of our world’s precious cultural heritage from vanishing.
We believe PNI is the “technology” that can deliver that potentially. For it to work well, striking a good balance between StoryListening and StoryTelling is vital. Jimmy Nelson’s example makes us feel humble when it comes to capturing and telling stories. He makes us even more aware that acquiring new skills and integrating them in existing practices remains as useful as ever to achieve more catalysis. If the is the long-term effect on us and our partners of enjoying this book during the Festive Season, we are well-positioned to help more stories go where they need to go. Improving our catalytic effect could turn out be a good measure for success in 2015. Time will tell ……