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How photography connects us

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    Let's just start by looking at some great photographs.
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    This is an icon of National Geographic,
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    an Afghan refugee taken by Steve McCurry.
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    But the Harvard Lampoon is about to come out
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    with a parody of National Geographic,
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    and I shudder to think what they're going to do to this photograph.
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    Oh, the wrath of Photoshop.
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    This is a jet landing at San Francisco, by Bruce Dale.
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    He mounted a camera on the tail.
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    A poetic image for a story on Tolstoy, by Sam Abell.
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    Pygmies in the DRC, by Randy Olson.
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    I love this photograph because it reminds me
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    of Degas' bronze sculptures of the little dancer.
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    A polar bear swimming in the Arctic, by Paul Nicklen.
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    Polar bears need ice to be able to move back and forth --
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    they're not very good swimmers --
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    and we know what's happening to the ice.
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    These are camels moving across the Rift Valley in Africa,
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    photographed by Chris Johns.
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    Shot straight down, so these are the shadows of the camels.
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    This is a rancher in Texas, by William Albert Allard,
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    a great portraitist.
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    And Jane Goodall, making her own special connection,
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    photographed by Nick Nichols.
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    This is a soap disco in Spain, photographed by David Alan Harvey.
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    And David said that there was lot of weird stuff
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    happening on the dance floor.
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    But, hey, at least it's hygienic.
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    (Laughter)
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    These are sea lions in Australia doing their own dance,
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    by David Doubilet.
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    And this is a comet, captured by Dr. Euan Mason.
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    And finally, the bow of the Titanic, without movie stars,
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    photographed by Emory Kristof.
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    Photography carries a power that holds up
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    under the relentless swirl of today's saturated, media world,
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    because photographs emulate the way
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    that our mind freezes a significant moment.
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    Here's an example.
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    Four years ago, I was at the beach with my son,
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    and he was learning how to swim
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    in this relatively soft surf of the Delaware beaches.
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    But I turned away for a moment, and he got caught into a riptide
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    and started to be pulled out towards the jetty.
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    I can stand here right now and see,
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    as I go tearing into the water after him,
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    the moments slowing down and freezing into this arrangement.
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    I can see the rocks are over here.
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    There's a wave about to crash onto him.
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    I can see his hands reaching out,
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    and I can see his face in terror,
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    looking at me, saying, "Help me, Dad."
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    I got him. The wave broke over us.
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    We got back on shore; he was fine.
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    We were a little bit rattled.
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    But this flashbulb memory, as it's called,
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    is when all the elements came together to define
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    not just the event, but my emotional connection to it.
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    And this is what a photograph taps into
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    when it makes its own powerful connection to a viewer.
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    Now I have to tell you,
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    I was talking to Kyle last week about this,
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    that I was going to tell this story.
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    And he said, "Oh, yeah, I remember that too!
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    I remember my image of you
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    was that you were up on the shore yelling at me."
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    (Laughter)
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    I thought I was a hero.
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    (Laughter)
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    So,
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    this represents -- this is a cross-sample of
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    some remarkable images taken by some of the world's greatest photojournalists,
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    working at the very top of their craft --
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    except one.
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    This photograph was taken by Dr. Euan Mason
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    in New Zealand last year,
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    and it was submitted and published in National Geographic.
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    Last year, we added a section to our website called "Your Shot,"
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    where anyone can submit photographs for possible publication.
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    And it has become a wild success,
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    tapping into the enthusiast photography community.
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    The quality of these amateur photographs
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    can, at times, be amazing.
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    And seeing this reinforces, for me,
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    that every one of us has at least one or two
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    great photographs in them.
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    But to be a great photojournalist,
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    you have to have more than just one or two
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    great photographs in you.
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    You've got to be able to make them all the time.
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    But even more importantly,
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    you need to know how to create a visual narrative.
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    You need to know how to tell a story.
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    So I'm going to share with you some coverages
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    that I feel demonstrate the storytelling power of photography.
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    Photographer Nick Nichols went to document
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    a very small and relatively unknown wildlife sanctuary
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    in Chad, called Zakouma.
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    The original intent was to travel there
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    and bring back a classic story of diverse species,
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    of an exotic locale.
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    And that is what Nick did, up to a point.
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    This is a serval cat.
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    He's actually taking his own picture,
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    shot with what's called a camera trap.
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    There's an infrared beam that's going across,
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    and he has stepped into the beam and taken his photograph.
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    These are baboons at a watering hole.
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    Nick -- the camera, again, an automatic camera
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    took thousands of pictures of this.
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    And Nick ended up with a lot of pictures
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    of the rear ends of baboons.
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    (Laughter)
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    A lion having a late night snack --
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    notice he's got a broken tooth.
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    And a crocodile walks up a riverbank toward its den.
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    I love this little bit of water
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    that comes off the back of his tail.
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    But the centerpiece species of Zakouma are the elephants.
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    It's one of the largest intact herds in this part of Africa.
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    Here's a photograph shot in moonlight,
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    something that digital photography has made a big difference for.
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    It was with the elephants that this story pivoted.
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    Nick, along with researcher Dr. Michael Fay,
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    collared the matriarch of the herd.
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    They named her Annie,
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    and they began tracking her movements.
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    The herd was safe within the confines of the park,
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    because of this dedicated group of park rangers.
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    But once the annual rains began,
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    the herd would begin migrating to feeding grounds outside the park.
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    And that's when they ran into trouble.
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    For outside the safety of the park were poachers,
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    who would hunt them down only for the value of their ivory tusks.
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    The matriarch that they were radio tracking,
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    after weeks of moving back and forth, in and out of the park,
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    came to a halt outside the park.
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    Annie had been killed, along with 20 members of her herd.
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    And they only came for the ivory.
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    This is actually one of the rangers.
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    They were able to chase off one of the poachers and recover this ivory,
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    because they couldn't leave it there,
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    because it's still valuable.
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    But what Nick did was he brought back
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    a story that went beyond the old-school method
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    of just straight, "Isn't this an amazing world?"
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    And instead, created a story that touched our audiences deeply.
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    Instead of just knowledge of this park,
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    he created an understanding and an empathy
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    for the elephants, the rangers and the many issues
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    surrounding human-wildlife conflicts.
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    Now let's go over to India.
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    Sometimes you can tell a broad story in a focused way.
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    We were looking at the same issue that Richard Wurman
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    touches upon in his new world population project.
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    For the first time in history,
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    more people live in urban, rather than rural, environments.
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    And most of that growth is not in the cities,
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    but in the slums that surround them.
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    Jonas Bendiksen, a very energetic photographer,
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    came to me and said,
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    "We need to document this, and here's my proposal.
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    Let's go all over the world and photograph every single slum around the world."
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    And I said, "Well, you know, that might be a bit ambitious for our budget."
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    So instead, what we did was
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    we decided to, instead of going out and doing what would result
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    in what we'd consider sort of a survey story --
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    where you just go in and see just a little bit of everything --
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    we put Jonas into Dharavi,
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    which is part of Mumbai, India,
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    and let him stay there, and really get into
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    the heart and soul of this really major part of the city.
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    What Jonas did was not just go and do a surface look
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    at the awful conditions that exist in such places.
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    He saw that this was a living and breathing and vital part
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    of how the entire urban area functioned.
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    By staying tightly focused in one place,
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    Jonas tapped into the soul and the enduring human spirit
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    that underlies this community.
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    And he did it in a beautiful way.
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    Sometimes, though, the only way to tell a story is with a sweeping picture.
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    We teamed up underwater photographer Brian Skerry
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    and photojournalist Randy Olson
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    to document the depletion of the world's fisheries.
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    We weren't the only ones to tackle this subject,
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    but the photographs that Brian and Randy created
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    are among the best to capture both the human
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    and natural devastation of overfishing.
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    Here, in a photo by Brian,
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    a seemingly crucified shark is caught up
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    in a gill net off of Baja.
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    I've seen sort of OK pictures of bycatch,
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    the animals accidentally scooped up
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    while fishing for a specific species.
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    But here, Brian captured a unique view
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    by positioning himself underneath the boat
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    when they threw the waste overboard.
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    And Brian then went on to even greater risk
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    to get this never-before-made photograph
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    of a trawl net scraping the ocean bottom.
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    Back on land, Randy Olson photographed
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    a makeshift fish market in Africa,
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    where the remains of filleted fish were sold to the locals,
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    the main parts having already been sent to Europe.
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    And here in China, Randy shot a jellyfish market.
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    As prime food sources are depleted,
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    the harvest goes deeper into the oceans
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    and brings in more such sources of protein.
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    This is called fishing down the food chain.
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    But there are also glimmers of hope,
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    and I think anytime we're doing a big, big story on this,
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    we don't really want to go
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    and just look at all the problems.
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    We also want to look for solutions.
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    Brian photographed a marine sanctuary in New Zealand,
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    where commercial fishing had been banned --
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    the result being that the overfished species have been restored,
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    and with them a possible solution for sustainable fisheries.
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    Photography can also compel us to confront
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    issues that are potentially distressing and controversial.
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    James Nachtwey, who was honored at last year's TED,
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    took a look at the sweep of the medical system
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    that is utilized to handle the American wounded coming out of Iraq.
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    It is like a tube where a wounded soldier enters on one end
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    and exits back home, on the other.
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    Jim started in the battlefield.
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    Here, a medical technician tends to a wounded soldier
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    on the helicopter ride back to the field hospital.
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    Here is in the field hospital.
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    The soldier on the right has the name of his daughter
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    tattooed across his chest, as a reminder of home.
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    From here, the more severely wounded are transported
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    back to Germany, where they meet up with their families
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    for the first time.
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    And then back to the States to recuperate at veterans' hospitals,
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    such as here in Walter Reed.
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    And finally, often fitted with high-tech prosthesis,
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    they exit the medical system and attempt
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    to regain their pre-war lives.
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    Jim took what could have been a straight-up medical science story
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    and gave it a human dimension that touched our readers deeply.
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    Now, these stories are great examples
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    of how photography can be used
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    to address some of our most important topics.
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    But there are also times when photographers
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    simply encounter things that are, when it comes down to it,
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    just plain fun.
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    Photographer Paul Nicklin traveled to Antarctica
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    to shoot a story on leopard seals.
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    They have been rarely photographed, partly because they are considered
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    one of the most dangerous predators in the ocean.
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    In fact, a year earlier, a researcher had been
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    grabbed by one and pulled down to depth and killed.
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    So you can imagine Paul was maybe a little bit hesitant
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    about getting into the water.
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    Now, what leopard seals do mostly is, they eat penguins.
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    You know of "The March of the Penguins."
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    This is sort of the munch of the penguins.
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    (Laughter)
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    Here a penguin goes up to the edge and looks out
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    to see if the coast is clear.
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    And then everybody kind of runs out and goes out.
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    But then Paul got in the water.
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    And he said he was never really afraid of this.
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    Well, this one female came up to him.
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    She's probably -- it's a shame you can't see it in the photograph,
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    but she's 12 feet long.
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    So, she is pretty significant in size.
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    And Paul said he was never really afraid,
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    because she was more curious about him than threatened.
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    This mouthing behavior, on the right,
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    was really her way of saying to him, "Hey, look how big I am!"
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    Or you know, "My, what big teeth you have."
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    (Laughter)
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    Then Paul thinks that she simply took pity on him.
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    To her, here was this big, goofy creature in the water
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    that for some reason didn't seem to be interested
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    in chasing penguins.
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    So what she did was she started to bring penguins to him,
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    alive, and put them in front of him.
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    She dropped them off, and then they would swim away.
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    She'd kind of look at him, like "What are you doing?"
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    Go back and get them, and then bring them back
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    and drop them in front of him.
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    And she did this over the course of a couple of days,
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    until the point where she got so frustrated with him
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    that she started putting them directly on top of his head.
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    (Laughter)
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    Which just resulted in a fantastic photograph.
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    (Laughter)
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    Eventually, though, Paul thinks that she just figured
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    that he was never going to survive.
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    This is her just puffing out, you know,
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    snorting out in disgust.
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    (Laughter)
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    And lost interest with him, and went back to what she does best.
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    Paul set out to photograph a relatively
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    mysterious and unknown creature,
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    and came back with not just a collection of photographs,
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    but an amazing experience and a great story.
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    It is these kinds of stories,
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    ones that go beyond the immediate or just the superficial
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    that demonstrate the power of photojournalism.
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    I believe that photography can make a real connection to people,
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    and can be employed as a positive agent
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    for understanding the challenges and opportunities
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    facing our world today.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
How photography connects us
Speaker:
David Griffin
Description:

The photo director for National Geographic, David Griffin knows the power of photography to connect us to our world. In a talk filled with glorious images, he talks about how we all use photos to tell our stories.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
14:36
TED edited English subtitles for How photography connects us
TED added a translation

English subtitles

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