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TED2012

Steven Addis: A father-daughter bond, one photo at a time

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A long time ago in New York City, Steve Addis stood on a corner holding his 1-year-old daughter in his arms; his wife snapped a photo. The image has inspired an annual father-daughter ritual, where Addis and his daughter pose for the same picture, on the same corner, each year. Addis shares 15 treasured photographs from the series, and explores why this small, repeated ritual means so much.

- Brand strategist
Steven Addis is a father and photography buff who, by day, harnesses the power of branding for social change. Full bio

Photography has been my passion
00:16
ever since I was old enough to pick up a camera,
00:17
but today I want to share with you
00:20
the 15 most treasured photos of mine,
00:23
and I didn't take any of them.
00:26
There were no art directors, no stylists,
00:27
no chance for reshoots, not even any regard for lighting.
00:30
In fact, most of them were taken by random tourists.
00:35
My story begins
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when I was in New York City for a speaking engagement,
00:41
and my wife took this picture of me holding my daughter
00:43
on her first birthday. We're on the corner of 57th and 5th.
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We happened to be back in New York exactly a year later,
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so we decided to take the same picture.
00:54
Well you can see where this is going.
00:57
Approaching my daughter's third birthday,
00:59
my wife said, "Hey, why don't you take Sabina back to New York
01:01
and make it a father-daughter trip, and continue the ritual?"
01:04
This is when we started asking passing tourists to take the picture.
01:08
You know, it's remarkable how universal
01:11
the gesture is of handing your camera to a total stranger.
01:14
No one's ever refused, and luckily no one's ever run off with our camera.
01:17
Back then, we had no idea how much this trip would change our lives.
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It's really become sacred to us.
01:26
This one was taken just weeks after 9/11,
01:28
and I found myself trying to explain what had happened that day
01:30
in ways a five-year-old could understand.
01:35
So these photos are far more than proxies
01:37
for a single moment, or even a specific trip.
01:40
They're also ways for us to freeze time
01:43
for one week in October
01:46
and reflect on our times
01:50
and how we change from year to year,
01:53
and not just physically, but in every way.
01:55
Because while we take the same photo,
01:58
our perspectives change,
02:00
and she reaches new milestones,
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and I get to see life through her eyes,
02:06
and how she interacts with and sees everything.
02:08
This very focused time we get to spend together
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is something we cherish and anticipate the entire year.
02:16
Recently, on one trip, we were walking,
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and she stops dead in her tracks,
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and she points to a red awning of the doll store
02:26
that she loved when she was little
02:30
on our earlier trips.
02:32
And she describes to me the feeling she felt
02:35
as a five-year-old standing in that exact spot.
02:37
She said she remembers her heart bursting out of her chest
02:41
when she saw that place for the very first time
02:44
nine years earlier.
02:46
And now what she's looking at in New York
02:49
are colleges,
02:51
because she's determined to go to school in New York.
02:53
And it hit me: One of the most important things
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we all make are memories.
02:59
So I want to share the idea of taking an active role
03:03
in consciously creating memories.
03:07
I don't know about you, but aside from these 15 shots,
03:10
I'm not in many of the family photos.
03:13
I'm always the one taking the picture.
03:15
So I want to encourage everyone today
03:17
to get in the shot,
03:20
and don't hesitate to go up to someone and ask,
03:22
"Will you take our picture?"
03:25
Thank you. (Applause)
03:27
Translated by Joseph Geni
Reviewed by Morton Bast

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About the speaker:

Steven Addis - Brand strategist
Steven Addis is a father and photography buff who, by day, harnesses the power of branding for social change.

Why you should listen

In the late ‘80s, Steven Addis imagined a creative agency that merged strategy and design, breaking down the walls between strategists, copywriters and designers. That vision evolved into Addis Creson, a brand strategy firm set on creating positive change by working with clients to market meaningful products and to improve their social benefit. The firm is behind the rapid rise of Kashi, the naming of Shutterfly and the launching of the sustainably raised salmon brand, Verlasso.

A photographer, film buff and writer, Addis began documenting the evolution of branding as the online world took shape. An avid traveler and supporter of the arts, he also advises businesses and non-profits through board work for the UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive and MapLight.

More profile about the speaker
Steven Addis | Speaker | TED.com