03:35
TED2014

Frans Lanting: Photos that give voice to the animal kingdom

Filmed:

Nature photographer Frans Lanting uses vibrant images to take us deep into the animal world. In this short, visual talk he calls for us to reconnect with other earthly creatures, and to shed the metaphorical skins that separate us from each other.

- Nature photographer
Frans Lanting is one of the greatest nature photographers of our time. His work has been featured in National Geographic, Audubon andTime, as well as numerous award-winning books. Lanting's recent exhibition, The LIFE Project, offers a lyrical interpretation of the history of life on Earth. Full bio

Humanity takes center stage at TED,
00:12
but I would like to add
a voice for the animals,
00:15
whose bodies and minds
and spirits shaped us.
00:19
Some years ago, it was my good fortune
00:25
to meet a tribal elder on an island
00:28
not far from Vancouver.
00:30
His name is Jimmy Smith,
00:32
and he shared a story with me
00:35
that is told among his people,
00:37
who call themselves the Kwikwasut'inuxw.
00:39
Once upon a time, he told me,
00:43
all animals on Earth were one.
00:45
Even though they look different on the outside,
00:48
inside, they're all the same,
00:51
and from time to time they would gather
00:54
at a sacred cave deep inside the forest
00:57
to celebrate their unity.
01:00
When they arrived,
01:02
they would all take off their skins.
01:04
Raven shed his feathers, bear his fur,
01:06
and salmon her scales,
01:10
and then, they would dance.
01:12
But one day, a human made it to the cave
01:15
and laughed at what he saw
01:19
because he did not understand.
01:20
Embarrassed, the animals fled,
01:23
and that was the last time
01:26
they revealed themselves this way.
01:28
The ancient understanding that underneath
01:32
their separate identities, all animals are one,
01:35
has been a powerful inspiration to me.
01:38
I like to get past the fur, the feathers
01:41
and the scales.
01:44
I want to get under the skin.
01:46
No matter whether I'm facing a giant elephant
01:48
or a tiny tree frog,
01:51
my goal is to connect us with them, eye to eye.
01:53
You may wonder, do I ever photograph people?
02:00
Sure. People are always present in my photos,
02:03
no matter whether they appear
02:07
to portray tortoises
02:09
or cougars
02:12
or lions.
02:14
You just have to learn how
to look past their disguise.
02:16
As a photographer,
02:20
I try to reach beyond the differences
02:22
in our genetic makeup
02:25
to appreciate all we have in common
02:27
with every other living thing.
02:30
When I use my camera,
02:34
I drop my skin
02:36
like the animals at that cave
02:38
so I can show who they really are.
02:41
As animals blessed
02:45
with the power of rational thought,
02:47
we can marvel at the intricacies of life.
02:50
As citizens of a planet in trouble,
02:55
it is our moral responsibility
02:58
to deal with the dramatic loss in diversity of life.
03:00
But as humans with hearts,
03:06
we can all rejoice in the unity of life,
03:08
and perhaps we can change
03:12
what once happened in that sacred cave.
03:14
Let's find a way to join the dance.
03:18
Thank you.
03:23
(Applause)
03:26

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About the Speaker:

Frans Lanting - Nature photographer
Frans Lanting is one of the greatest nature photographers of our time. His work has been featured in National Geographic, Audubon andTime, as well as numerous award-winning books. Lanting's recent exhibition, The LIFE Project, offers a lyrical interpretation of the history of life on Earth.

Why you should listen

In the pursuit of his work, Frans Lanting has lived in the trees with wild macaws, camped with giant tortoises inside a volcanic crater, and documented never-before-photographed wildlife and tribal traditions in Madagascar. The Dutch-born, California-based photographer has traveled to Botswana's Okavango Delta, the rain forests of Borneo and the home of emperor penguins in Antarctica.

The resulting photographs -- staggering in their beauty, startling in their originality -- have brought much-needed attention to endangered species and ecological crises throughout the world. In 2001, HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands inducted Lanting as a Knight in the Royal Order of the Golden Ark, the country's highest conservation honor -- just one of many honors he has received throughout his illustrious career.

More profile about the speaker
Frans Lanting | Speaker | TED.com