sponsored links
TED2010

Jonathan Klein: Photos that changed the world

February 11, 2010

Photographs do more than document history -- they make it. At TED University, Jonathan Klein of Getty Images shows some of the most iconic, and talks about what happens when a generation sees an image so powerful it can't look away -- or back.

Jonathan Klein - Executive
Jonathan Klein runs Getty Images, a stock photo agency whose vast archive of still photography and illustrations is a mainstay of the creative class. Full bio

sponsored links
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
In my industry,
00:15
we believe that images can change the world.
00:17
Okay, we're naive, we're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
00:20
The truth is that we know that the
00:23
images themselves don't change the world,
00:25
but we're also aware that, since the beginning of photography,
00:27
images have provoked reactions in people,
00:30
and those reactions have caused change to happen.
00:33
So let's begin with a group of images.
00:36
I'd be extremely surprised
00:39
if you didn't recognize many or most of them.
00:41
They're best described as iconic:
00:44
so iconic, perhaps, they're cliches.
00:46
In fact, they're so well-known
00:49
that you might even recognize them
00:51
in a slightly or somewhat different form.
00:53
(Laughter)
00:57
But I think we're looking for something more.
01:00
We're looking for something more.
01:02
We're looking for images that shine
01:04
an uncompromising light on crucial issues,
01:06
images that transcend borders, that transcend religions,
01:09
images that provoke us
01:12
to step up and do something --
01:14
in other words, to act.
01:16
Well, this image you've all seen.
01:18
It changed our view of the physical world.
01:21
We had never seen our planet from this perspective before.
01:23
Many people credit
01:26
a lot of the birth of the environmental movement
01:28
to our seeing the planet like this
01:30
for the first time --
01:32
its smallness, its fragility.
01:34
Forty years later, this group, more than most,
01:37
are well aware of the destructive power
01:40
that our species can wield over our environment.
01:42
And at last, we appear to be doing something about it.
01:45
This destructive power takes many different forms.
01:49
For example, these images taken by Brent Stirton
01:52
in the Congo.
01:55
These gorillas were murdered, some would even say crucified,
01:57
and unsurprisingly,
02:00
they sparked international outrage.
02:02
Most recently,
02:04
we've been tragically reminded of the destructive power of nature itself
02:06
with the recent earthquake in Haiti.
02:09
Well, I think what is far worse
02:12
is man's destructive power over man.
02:15
Samuel Pisar, an Auschwitz survivor, said,
02:17
and I'll quote him,
02:20
"The Holocaust teaches us that nature,
02:22
even in its cruelest moments,
02:24
is benign in comparison with man,
02:27
when he loses his moral compass and his reason."
02:30
There's another kind of crucifixion.
02:33
The horrifying images from Abu Ghraib
02:36
as well as the images from Guantanamo
02:38
had a profound impact.
02:40
The publication of those images,
02:42
as opposed to the images themselves,
02:44
caused a government to change its policies.
02:46
Some would argue that it is those images
02:49
that did more to fuel the insurgency in Iraq
02:51
than virtually any other single act.
02:54
Furthermore, those images forever removed
02:56
the so-called moral high ground of the occupying forces.
02:59
Let's go back a little.
03:02
In the 1960s and 1970s,
03:04
the Vietnam War was basically shown
03:06
in America's living rooms day in, day out.
03:08
News photos brought people face to face
03:10
with the victims of the war: a little girl burned by napalm,
03:13
a student killed by the National Guard
03:17
at Kent State University in Ohio during a protest.
03:19
In fact, these images became
03:22
the voices of protest themselves.
03:24
Now, images have power
03:26
to shed light of understanding
03:28
on suspicion, ignorance,
03:30
and in particular -- I've given a lot of talks on this
03:32
but I'll just show one image --
03:34
the issue of HIV/AIDS.
03:37
In the 1980s, the stigmatization of people with the disease
03:40
was an enormous barrier
03:43
to even discussing or addressing it.
03:45
A simple act, in 1987, of the most famous woman in the world,
03:47
the Princess of Wales, touching
03:50
an HIV/AIDS infected baby
03:52
did a great deal, especially in Europe, to stop that.
03:54
She, better than most, knew the power of an image.
03:57
So when we are confronted by a powerful image,
04:01
we all have a choice:
04:03
We can look away, or we can address the image.
04:05
Thankfully, when these photos appeared in
04:08
The Guardian in 1998,
04:10
they put a lot of focus and attention and, in the end, a lot of money
04:12
towards the Sudan famine relief efforts.
04:15
Did the images change the world?
04:17
No, but they had a major impact.
04:19
Images often push us to question our core beliefs
04:22
and our responsibilities to each other.
04:24
We all saw those images after Katrina,
04:27
and I think for millions of people
04:29
they had a very strong impact.
04:31
And I think it's very unlikely
04:33
that they were far from the minds of Americans
04:35
when they went to vote in November 2008.
04:37
Unfortunately, some very important images
04:41
are deemed too graphic or disturbing for us to see them.
04:44
I'll show you one photo here,
04:48
and it's a photo by Eugene Richards of an Iraq War veteran
04:50
from an extraordinary piece of work,
04:53
which has never been published, called War Is Personal.
04:55
But images don't need to be graphic
04:58
in order to remind us of the tragedy of war.
05:00
John Moore set up this photo at Arlington Cemetery.
05:02
After all the tense moments of conflict
05:05
in all the conflict zones of the world,
05:07
there's one photograph from a much quieter place
05:10
that haunts me still, much more than the others.
05:13
Ansel Adams said, and I'm going to disagree with him,
05:17
"You don't take a photograph, you make it."
05:20
In my view, it's not the photographer who makes the photo,
05:23
it's you.
05:25
We bring to each image
05:27
our own values, our own belief systems,
05:29
and as a result of that, the image resonates with us.
05:31
My company has 70 million images.
05:34
I have one image in my office.
05:36
Here it is.
05:39
I hope that the next time you see
05:41
an image that sparks something in you,
05:43
you'll better understand why,
05:45
and I know that speaking to this audience,
05:47
you'll definitely do something about it.
05:50
And thank you to all the photographers.
05:52
(Applause)
05:54

sponsored links

Jonathan Klein - Executive
Jonathan Klein runs Getty Images, a stock photo agency whose vast archive of still photography and illustrations is a mainstay of the creative class.

Why you should listen

Even if you're an infrequent (or less sporty) user of the World Wide Web, chances are the last time you logged on -- perhaps on the very last page you visited -- you've come across an image sourced from stock photo agency Getty Images. Photos and illustrations from Getty can be found everywhere, for just about every purpose you can imagine. It shouldn't surprise you that Getty began in the Internet age, leaving print-era agencies in the dust by using Internet and CD-ROM distribution since day one.

Jonathan Klein, Getty's co-founder (along with Mark Getty) and the current CEO, helped drive its success over the past 15 years. He led it during its aggressive archive acquisition campaign through the '90s and now in the 2000s, adding to its formidable collection of editorial photos, footage and music. But his business skill is only part of his story; to hear Klein talk, one is quick to catch his passionate enthusiasm for the power of images -- not only to document moments in our lives and in history, not just to sell products or turn over PR campaigns -- but to shift public opinion and, perhaps, make the world more just.

Klein serves on the board of the Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS and on the board of Real Networks (media software company and creator of the popular RealPlayer).

The original video is available on TED.com
sponsored links

If you need translations, you can install "Google Translate" extension into your Chrome Browser.
Furthermore, you can change playback rate by installing "Video Speed Controller" extension.

Data provided by TED.

This website is owned and operated by Tokyo English Network.
The developer's blog is here.