Four years ago, photographer Jimmy Nelson set off on a quest to visit and photograph 31 of the world’s unique tribes. He became enamored with learning about cultures so unlike his own — cultures he fears will soon die out — with traditions, rituals, and customs he believes all the world should know.

"I wanted to witness their time-honoured traditions, join in their rituals and discover how the rest of the world is threatening to change their way of life forever," he says in a mission statement for his project, Before They Pass Away.Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world.”

In a high-energy, captivating talk at TEDxAmsterdam, Jimmy tells stories from this years-long project that has had him travel to the “edges of the world,” and taught him how to better understand the world, and the people, around him. Above, some of his work showcased in his talk, including his photos of the Samburu people, the Kazakhs, the Mursi, and the Rabari.

Above, the coolest field trip you never took as a kid — the guys and girls of TEDxYouth@Amsterdam breakdance, 3D print, fly quadcopters, and get drenched in confetti.

(Editor’s note: Yes, TEDxYouth@Amsterdam is better than the multiple trips to a potato chip factory I took as a kid. Though, the making of BBQ sauce powder is fascinating.)

TEDx Editors’ Picks: 4 great talks for the week

For this week’s Editor’s Picks, we’ve chosen four very different talks from four continents. The challenges they’re looking at may be familiar, but we like how the speakers bring new ideas and perspectives.


A new self-identity for Africans: Panashe Chigumadzi at TEDxJohannesburg
Panashe Chigumadzi is a young storyteller from Zimbabwe on a mission to redefine what it means to be African. Self-identity in many African countries has been skewed by the influence of colonization, she says, and in order to reclaim a sense of African identity, she urges people to use the power of new technology and social media to create positive cultural identities with uniquely African stories.

A better way to win the war on drugs: Bart de Koning at TEDxEde
Is the war on drugs worth fighting? Maybe, says Bart de Koning, if we can look at it with new eyes. Despite concerted efforts, he explains, criminal justice systems haven’t stopped the supply and demand of illegal drugs. Instead, academic research has found that well-funded mental health facilities offer the only effective solution to what is ultimately a problem of addiction. In the war on drugs, this compelling call to action may offer a new way forward.

Battery-powered fridge empowers Indian farmers: Sam White at TEDxBoston
In a country where most farmers don’t have refrigeration, how do you get milk to market before it spoils? At TEDxBoston, Sam White shows off a new battery-powered fridge solving that problem in India — even in areas without reliable electricity — making it possible to keep milk safe longer.

The mathematics of weight loss: Ruben Meerman at TEDxQUT
When you lose weight, what happens to the fat and where does it go? It seems so obvious… and yet, we weren’t sure either. So check out Ruben Meerman’s entertaining talk from TEDxQUT and figure out the chemistry of what exactly happens when the numbers on the scale start going down.

TEDx in weird places: 5 TEDx events you have to see to believe

A TEDx event surrounded by penguins? At a bowling alley? During Burning Man? All real things.

You don’t need an auditorium, seats, slides or even a stage to share new ideas. All you need is some enthusiasm, good ideas, and a willingness to take risks and change the world. With over 7,000 events since TEDx’s start in 2009, you have to believe that some have taken place in really strange places. Here are five of our favorites:

1. TEDxEverest: A TEDx at 21,000 feet
imageFor the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first ascent of the tallest mountain peak,
TEDx’ers Nate Mook and Eiso Vaandrager (seen above) brought TEDx to Mt. Everest — bringing talks to an audience of international climbers, local sherpas, and good friends at Everest’s Advanced Base Camp.

2. TEDxKalamata: TEDx goes ancient
This July, TEDxKalamata claimed a TEDx first — the first TEDx held at an archeological site: the ancient ekklesiasterion (assembly hall) of Messene, Greece. Using the remains of this ancient theater as a backdrop, 50 volunteers and 18 speakers came together to imagine a new future for Greece and the world.

3. TEDxMaastricht: TEDx by train
Earlier this month, TEDxMaastricht in the Netherlands held a very interesting event: a mini TEDx on a train heading from Maastricht to Amsterdam and, later, from Amsterdam to Maastricht. Via the magic of the TEDxMaastricht team, the last car of a Dutch intercity train was transformed into a venue for great new ideas, with 16 different speakers giving talks on the railway.

4. TEDxBrooklyn: Rental shoes, lucky strikes, and new ideas
For two years straight, TEDxBrooklyn, a TEDx event sharing ideas from the über-hip New York City borough, has held their event in a bowling alley. While all the speakers may not be championship pin-crashers, attendees have gotten the chance to try out their bowling skills at the event’s fun after-parties.

5. TEDxBlackRockCity: A TEDx takes on Burning Man
imageFor three years, TEDxBlackRockCity has brought TEDx to the desert.
Embracing the collaborative, creative environment of the annual Burning Man festival, TEDxBlackRockCity showcases some of the best ideas that this radical community of artists, innovators, creative thinkers has to offer.