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TED talks often focus on creativity, so it’s no surprise to find quite a few fascinating, inspiring and breathtaking videos that focus on the art of photography. Many of the TED talks on photography focus on a specific element – the element of story telling. We’ve put together a list of 7 talks by photographers from around the world. Their photography subjects are varied, and their interests diverse – but the one thread that ties them all together is the fact that the photographs they display serve one purpose above all – and that is the purpose of narrative.
Check out the 7 videos below, in no particular order. And be sure to check out our other recommended TED videos – we’ve got something in there for everyone: 4 must-see talks on creativity, inspiration and passion, 5 fascinating TED talks that explore the edge of technology, 6 mind-blowing TED talks about psychology and human behaviour and 8 TED talks under 5 minutes.
David Griffin: How photography connects us
In his 15 minute talk, How photography connects us, David Griffin, National Geographic Photo Director begins by displaying some of the magazine’s most iconic photographs – starting with the iconic photo of a young Afghani girl who’s image graced the cover of the magazine. He goes on to say “Photographs emulate the way that our mind freezes a significant moment.” More important however, according to Griffin, is that a photograph tells a story. Griffin displays gorgeous photographs that go beyond just images of exotic or far off locations – telling the poignant stories that go with these photos.
Becci Manson: (Re)touching lives through photos
In under 10 minutes, Becci Manson will transform your preconceived notion of the photo editor who uses Photoshop to retouch images of models – making them “skinnier”, their skin more flawless – and will make you realize that they are artists. She took her talent to Japan, in the wake of the 2011 Tsunami that took the lives of almost 16,000 people. In the debris left among the ruins of the Japanese towns were family photos. Manson tells the story of how she and her peers cleaned and restored these images, some over 100 years old, for their owners.
Jonathan Klein: Photos that changed the world
In 6 minutes, Jonathan Klein of Getty Images tells TED viewers about Photos that changed the world. For Klein, these photos go beyond being iconic images that we instantly recognize, but instead provoke a reaction in us. From photos taken in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, mountain gorillas murdered in the Congo, and black and white images of the holocaust – Klein reminds us we all have a choice – “we can look away, or we can address the image.”
Ryan Lobo: Photographing the hidden story
It’s hard to avoid the story-telling theme in TED talks on photograph – because after all – a strong photograph is one that tells a story. Lobo travelled to Iraq, Afghanistan and Liberia, photographing the subjects of war. In his talk, “He reframes controversial subjects with empathy, so that we see the pain of a Liberian war criminal, the quiet strength of UN women peacekeepers and the perseverance of Delhi’s underappreciated firefighters.”
Phil Borges on endangered cultures
Phil Borges begins his talk on endangered cultures with a startling statistic. Of the 6,000 languages spoken throughout the world, 3,000 of them are not spoken by the children. With languages and cultures fast disappearing, Borges uses photography as a means to preserve a culture that is on the verge of extinction. Travelling to India and Ecuador, he tells the story of the people he photographed – exiled Tibetan monks and Amazonian tribes.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand captures fragile Earth in wide-angle
Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s 15 minute talk is crammed with gorgeous images you won’t want to miss. The photos, breathtakingly beautiful aerial images from around the world, go beyond just showing viewers a point of view they often miss. They are a reminder of the impact that humans have on the earth. The Alberta oil sands, the threatened coral reefs in New Caledonia, Kilimanjaro without its iconic snow-topped peak. The stories that Arthus-Bertrand’s photos tell are a haunting reminder of the environmental dangers we are facing.
Kristen Ashburn’s photos of AIDS
In under 5 minutes, Kristen Ashburn has an incredibly powerful impact speaking about and showing photos she took in Zimbabwe, documenting the impact of AIDS on the African country. Bringing empathy and heartbreaking humanity to the images and to her stories, Ashburn’s talk is a powerful reminder of how much the photographer can be affected, just as much, if not more than, the viewer looking at the photos. Many of the photos are shown in complete silence, speaking volumes for themselves.
What are your favourite TED talks for and by photographers? Let us know in the comments.