A Visual Anthropology of the Last Living Nomads in the World

By Maria Popova

What is it about Dutch photographers that makes them so visually eloquent at capturing the human condition? From Jeroen Toirkens comes Nomad -- a fascinating and strikingly beautiful visual anthropology of the Northern Hemisphere's last living nomadic peoples, from Greenland to Turkey. A decade in the making, this multi-continent journey unfolds in 150 black-and-white and full-color photos that reveal what feels like an alternate reality of a life often harsh, sometimes poetic, devoid of many of our modern luxuries and basic givens, from shiny digital gadgets to a permanent roof over one's head.

Since the beginning of time, nomadic people have roamed the earth. Looking for food, feeding their cattle. Looking for an existence, freedom. Living in the wild, mountains, deserts, on tundra and ice. With only a thin layer of tent between them and nature. Earth in the 21st century is a crowded place, roads and cities are everywhere. Yet somehow, these people hold on to traditions that go back to the very beginning of human civilization. --Jelle Brandt Corstius

Zuun Taiga, Mongolia, 2007

Tiniteqilaaq, Greenland, 2009

Altai Mountains, Russia, 2006

Tiniteqilaaq, Greenland, 2009

Nuuk, Greenland, 2009

Zuun Taiga, Mongolia, 2007

Zuun Taiga, Mongolia, 2007

Arghangai Aimag, Mongolia, 2007

Gobi Desert, Mongolia, 2007

Gobi Desert, Mongolia, 2007

Gobi Desert, Mongolia, 2007

Kola Sami, Russia, 2006

Nenets, Russia, 2005

Baruun Taiga, Mongolia, 2004

Kazakh, Altai Mountains, Russia, 2004

Berbers, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco, 2002

Kirgiz, Kyrgystan, 2000

Yörük, Bolkar Mountains, Turkey, 1999

Sami, Karesuvanto, Finland, 2001

Kola Sami, Russia, 2006

This video of what the "Eskimo" life really means, made in the settlement of Tiniteqilaaq hunters, will give you a taste for the project's breathtaking mesmerism:

Because of climate change, we can see and feel winter days get colder and the sea, it's warmer. And, because of that, it's more difficult to hunt in the winters.

A stunning exercise in perspective-shifting, Nomad invites you to see the world -- our world, and yet a world that feels eerily other -- with new eyes, embracing it with equal parts fascination and profound human empathy.

Images: Lannoo Publishers, Jeroen Toirkens.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/10/a-visual-anthropology-of-the-last-living-nomads-in-the-world/246703/