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The storytelling power of photography

Renee_TEDxTokyo We all know the power of great photography. To me, there is still nothing like the still photograph to convey emotion and the significance of a particular moment. Obviously, photographs are not just for print. Ken Burns, for example, says that he views the photograph as the basic building block or DNA of his documentary film making. "Pictures," he says, "are often our closest representation of the reality we're trying to come to terms with." With that in mind, I'd like to point you to a 13-minute slideshow by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Renée Byer. Renée is the sister of my pal Tom Byer (the famous soccer guru "Tom-san" in Tokyo) and she was one of the fantastic people who presented for TEDxTokyo in 2009. Since her presentation was about the photographs, she chose to sit down close to the audience and read a transcript in sync with the large images projected behind her. I remember this presentation very well; I was sitting in the front row with Barry Eisler and we were both deeply moved by the end.


The final four minutes
Renée_Byer's_photo Renée finishes her presentation by showing photos from her series called “A Mother’s Journey," which tells the sad and evocative story of a mother's love and determination as she witnesses her young son die of cancer. As Renée says in her narration, "...dying is hard enough. Our society should make living through it easier." By the time Renée finished her slide show, there was not a dry eye in the house. It was not a fancy presentation and there was no dramatic or polished narration. The photos spoke louder than any words could. Renée's talk was the last of the session. During the break I found her on stage and just gave her a big hug. Although we had just met the day before, Renée was able to create such emotion with her simple delivery and powerful images that I had no words for her other than a warm embrace of appreciation and a gentle "thank you."



Thank you so much for sharing that. I was deeply moved.

There is such beauty in compassion.

And simplicity.


Great post! Typo in " witnesses her young son [dye] of cancer"


Wonderful talk, very moving!
thank you very much for sharing,


Thanks a ton.

Though I visit presentation zen regularly , this presentation touched my heart.

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I think nowadays there is no significance considered of a particular moment with still photograph.
Thanks for sharing .


I am at a loss for words

Julie - Fine Tooth Comb

A powerful presentation. I don't believe I've even seen a picture of a parent acting as a pallbearer. That image is one I won't soon forget.


Thank you for pointing us to Renee's art. They are truly powerful and moving in a most elegant manner.


My God. Thank you.


...way too heavy for father of young son. Very strong presentation.

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I couldn’t understand certain parts of this post, but I assume I only need to learn a bit more regardingthis, because it certainly sounds interesting and kind of though-proviking! By the way, how did you first get startedwith this?

Fred E. Miller


The concept of a picture vs. a movie, holding time still, got to me.


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Thank you for pointing us to Renee's art. They are truly powerful and moving in a most elegant manner.


thank you very much for sharing us with this's moving.

Christine Korol

Thank you for this post and pointing us to Renee's powerful and important work.

Christian Ray Flores

Thank you for this story. I took after my father and take hundreds of pictures every year. I do video production and love image storytelling.

I just finished your book Presentation Zen and want to thank you for the simplicity and profound meaning of it. As a public speaker and blogger it has changed the way I look at communicating.

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