The Best TED Talks About Photography You Must See Right Now

March 18, 2015

Having been going on a regular basis since 1990, the TED series of conferences have always been a hotbed of inspirational and groundbreaking ideas but it is only in the last decade that they’ve been made available to freely view online.

While the core subject matter of early TED talks have centered around technology and design, we’ve since seen a number of superb talks on wide-ranging topics. Photography is no exception, and if you’re a student at photography school or simply have a deep interest in the medium, there are talks that deserved to be filed under ‘must-watch’.

Between the official TED Talks about photography and the hidden gems hosted at TEDx events around the globe, scroll on as we introduce:

The Best TED Talks About Photography

Nick Veasy: Exposing the Invisible

For 99% of people practicing the craft, photography is all about how best to capture and reproduce what we see in the world around us with our own eyes…

… but what about the stuff we can’t see?

Nick Veasey has set about the unenviably difficult task of doing just that – producing photos using highly technical x-ray equipment and techniques to tease out images that we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see. His work is as imaginative as it is varied; from the inner workings of massive objects such as aircraft to the intricate geometry of plant life, the resulting photography (and the methods behind it) is guaranteed to amaze.

David Griffin: How Photography Connects Us

“Let’s just start by looking at some great photographs.”

As so begins one of the most frequently shared TED Talks about photography that has ever been produced, and also the single video which we urge anyone to watch if they’re struggling to understand why photography is so important in the modern age. Incredible photography and deep insight, combined with Griffin’s knack for pulling on the heartstrings and getting to the emotional core of what the art form is all about.

Johnathan Klein: Photos that Changed the World

Every now and then – maybe a decade or so, sometimes more – a single photograph will come along that tangibly changes the way we look at the world.

From the serenely beautiful such as the first ever image of the Earth rising above the moon’s horizon to the harrowing scenes of 9/11 captured on film, Jonathan Klein’s TED talk leads us on a tour of the most iconic and influential photographs ever taken. In his capacity as co-founder of Getty Images, he speaks here with great eloquence on the hows and whys of why these images moved us as a species.

 Paul Nicklen: Tales of Ice-Bound Wonderlands

As photographers, we’re sometimes lucky enough to be sent to exotic locations on interesting assignments. Occasionally, the nature of the photo shoot can be both dangerous and fascinating…

… how about being submerged in subzero waters beneath thick ice, trying to get a shot of an aggressive leopard seal on its own territory?

Nicklen’s TED Talk about photography work as rare as this is precisely as interesting as it sounds. As a polar specialist, he has more than a few great stories to share and does so with great humor. Absolutely essential viewing for budding wildlife and/or nature photographers.

iO Tillett Wright: Fifty Shades of Gay

Part exploratory, part activism, and wholly brilliant – Wright’s photography project, Self Evident Truths,  has to date involved photographing over 8,000 Americans in over 30 cities, and as a collective whole creates a cross section of the LBGTQ spectrum across the country. The NYC writer, actor and photographer uses this project as the center point of her TED talk, around which she candidly shares her own story as well as what Self Evident Truths means for all of us, regardless of our sexual orientation.

Wright’s photography demonstrates the power the medium has to raise social questions and hold a mirror up to ourselves in an effort to promote equality.

James Nachtwey: My Photographs Bear Witness

No list of the best TED Talks about photography would be complete without featuring James Nachtwey’s acceptance speech which he delivered on receiving the 2007 TED prize.

It’s one of the most powerful speeches about photography ever given, and after watching him talk about his journey so far as a war photographer, you’ll no doubt agree that he deserved the standing ovation he rightfully received at the end of the talk.

Know of any more great TED Talks about photography (or a related topic) that we might have missed? Help the community out by leaving your suggestions in the comments below, and let’s get some inspiration flowing!