British photographer captures life on one of the world’s most remote islands that is still inhabited by its original tribal settlers

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A British photographer has captured life on one of the world’s most remote islands that is still inhabited by its original tribal settlers.

The Marquesas Islands, dotted in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, are home to one of the planet’s most untouched civilisations which has remained relatively unaffected by the developed world.

The Islanders, known as Marquesans, mostly get around the islands on horseback and are covered in tribal tattoos which is where modern body ink originated from, according photographer Jimmy Nelson.

The 12 ‘extremely isolated’ islands, of which only six are inhabited, are said to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island.

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British photographer Jimmy Nelson went to the Marquesas Islands and photographed the indigenous people who live there.
Only six of the twelve islands are inhabited (Picture: Jimmy Nelson / SWNS)

They are 880 miles from the nearest popular tourist destination Tahiti, in French Polynesia, which is a four-hour flight away.

Jimmy, 53, who is world-renowned for his portraits of indigenous peoples, has been to the islands twice to offer the outside world a rare glimpse of the Marquesans’ lives.

He stayed for about six weeks each time patiently earning the trusts of the tribes before asking to take their photographs.

The British photographer, currently living in Amsterdam, described his experiences visiting the islands as ‘the biggest richness you can ever imagine’.

British photographer Jimmy Nelson went to the Marquesas Islands and photographed the indigenous people who live there.
Most Marquesans are covered in traditional tattoos (Picture: Jimmy Nelson / SWNS)
British photographer Jimmy Nelson went to the Marquesas Islands and photographed the indigenous people who live there.
Jimmy said it took time to get the Marquesans to let him take photographs of them (Credits: Jimmy Nelson / SWNS)

He said: ‘It is a beautiful part of the world, and is still relatively untouched by the developed world.

‘You have to make a real effort to get there, as it is about four hours’ flight from Tahiti, so it is not the most popular destination.

‘Very few people have actually spent time there – but that just means that those who do make the effort to go, will go with love and compassion and curiosity to really find out about the islands.

‘Once you are there, it takes a long time to really connect with the islands and with their culture.

‘The Marquesans don’t speak any English, so you have to find other ways to communicate with them.

British photographer Jimmy Nelson went to the Marquesas Islands and photographed the indigenous people who live there.
Marquesans dressed up for special occasions such as weddings (Picture: Jimmy Nelson / SWNS)
British photographer Jimmy Nelson went to the Marquesas Islands and photographed the indigenous people who live there.
The Marquesans get around the group of islands on horseback (Picture: Jimmy Nelson / SWNS)
British photographer Jimmy Nelson went to the Marquesas Islands and photographed the indigenous people who live there.
A young Marquesan in traditional dress (Picture: Jimmy Nelson / SWNS)

‘You have to show them that you are patient, that you are curious to learn about their culture.

‘But from that, you do become very emotional and genuinely very passionate as you start to form a connection with them.

‘Then, and only then, can you gradually and delicately begin to take people’s portraits, and capture life as it really is there.’

His photographs will feature in his new digitally interactive book The Last Sentinels, which comes paired with an app.

Jimmy said he hopes the book will educate readers about the history of the hidden culture.

British photographer Jimmy Nelson went to the Marquesas Islands and photographed the indigenous people who live there.
Jimmy is known for his portraits of indigenous peoples (Picture: Jimmy Nelson / SWNS.com)
British photographer Jimmy Nelson went to the Marquesas Islands and photographed the indigenous people who live there.
The islands are 880 miles away from the nearest popular tourist destination (Picture: Jimmy Nelson / SWNS.com)

He said: ‘It is my life mission to share images like this with the world.

‘It is about sharing the beauty and compassion of these human beings, allowing me into their rich heritage and culture. They are so connected to their source.

‘It is a very healing process – it is about connecting with the deepest and most vulnerable parts of the soul, and re-addressing the balance within yourself.’

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