TED-Talk: Rick Smolan: A girl, a photograph, a homecoming

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American photographer Rick Smolan tells the unforgettable story of a young Amerasian girl, a fateful photograph, and an adoption saga with a twist. This is one of the most touching talks I have ever seen on the TED-Forum. Rick Smolan is the co-creator of the America at Home project, which captured the “emotions of home” across the United States during a week in September 2008. More than 20,000 photographers — pros and amateurs — sent images to a team of editors assembled by Smolan and partner Jennifer Erwitt, who turned the photos into an eye-popping book. It’s become a best-seller, of course, helped along by the fact that buyers can choose their own image for the cover.

Smolan has long been a force for exploring culture through photography. The Day in the Life photography series that he cofounded — best-selling photo books that captured life in America, Australia, the Soviet Union … — were an ’80s cultural phenomenon. (Rare was the coffee table without at least one of them.) In the 1990s his production company, Against All Odds, investigated the storytelling powers of interactive CD-ROMs with From Alice to Ocean, a narrative of a cross-Australia trek, and Passage to Vietnam, exploring that country as it opened up in the early 1990s. 24 Hours in Cyberspace took a snapshot of the booming industry in 1996, and One Digital Day in 1997 further explored our fascination with tech. Smolan’s latest book, with collaborator Jennifer Erwitt, is the beautiful Blue Planet Run, about the drive to bring fresh drinking water to everyone on Earth. It’s packed with glorious (and sometimes shocking) images and data about our planet’s water. In an unprecedented move, Amazon.com offers Blue Planet Run as a free PDF download. Download the free PDF of Blue Planet Run.

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