“The majority of us aren’t going to willingly go and wade out into a swamp,” says conservation photographer Mac Stone at TEDxUF, though this is what he does on a regular basis. The Florida-based photographer specializes in documenting the Everglades, an area he prizes for its wildlife and flora, despite the swampland’s reputation as being scary, dangerous and spooky, he says.
“Because [Florida's wetlands] have very little monetary value and are known to harbor alligators and snakes — which I’ll admit are not the most cuddly of ambassadors — it became assumed that the only good swamp was a drained swamp,” Stone says in his talk. “My job is to use my camera, to use photography as a communication tool to help bridge the gap between science and aesthetics … The Everglades is not just responsible for the drinking water for seven million Floridians; today it also provides agricultural fields for the year-round tomatoes and oranges for over 300 million Americans.”
Stone aims to use photography to show the beauty and diversity of a place associated with ugliness and fear and now in danger of destruction. “Over the last 60 years we have drained, we have dammed, we have dredged the Everglades to where now only one third of the water that used to reach the [Florida] Bay now reaches the bay today.”
In his talk, he details the work he puts in to document Everglades wildlife — from the endangered Everglade Snail Kite, a bird whose main food source — the apple snail — is in decline, to the powerful Florida alligator ruling its homemade “gator hole.”
Watch Stone’s whole talk below to learn more:
Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:
The speaker, a photographer, shows how conservation photography can move beyond aesthetics to transform attitudes toward natural environments — in this case, the Florida Everglades. His talk is filled with stunning visuals, concrete data about his subjects and passion for the purpose behind his work. He shares not only his photography, but the social, political, scientific and environmental climate surrounding his subject.