The fragile beauty of birds’ nests: Sharon Beals at TED2012

Posted by: Ben Lillie

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Artist Sharon Beals is captivated by the art form of nests, and she is fascinated by the industry, endeavor, and materials used to make them.

So she photographs them, making beautiful images like those shown above.  At TED2012 she breathed life and color into a meditative walk through the nests of an extraordinary array of different birds, from across the world. The Green Heron. The Bank Swallow. The Spotted Nightingale-thrush. The Brown Creeper. The Social Flycatcher. The Rock Sparrow. The Cuban Emerald. And many more.

To make these, she didn’t climb any trees, she shot them in science collections. Some of them are very old and carry reminders of the past: From 1895, made with sheeps wool. From 1906 in the Galapagos. In 1938 a Barn Swallow’s nest, shipped from occupied Manchuria wrapped in Japanese newspaper.

Now, nests are filled with modern objects. She collects the detritus of what we consume. Beals’s new project is to collect that, and photograph them, as reminders of what is happening.

“When I think of all of the beauty and wonder on this earth, I’m often moved to tears, but like many of you I am bereft at how much we are loosing. It is my hope that this will inspire others to protect and restore what we can.”

Comments (27)

  • commented on Sep 10 2012

    Please post the talk!

  • Jason Wertheimer commented on Sep 10 2012

    I would definitely love to see the video for this talk. When will it be online?

  • commented on Sep 10 2012

    Will this talk be available online anytime soon? I wasn’t able to attend the conference to see her speak, so this is the only way I can manage it.

  • francesca prada commented on Sep 10 2012

    Any chance that you will post the video of Sharon Beals’ talk? I hear such good things about it, I really would like to see it if at all possible.

  • Sharon Searles commented on Sep 10 2012

    I’d love to see this talk! Can it get posted so I can watch it? Thank you!

  • Teresa Lehane commented on Sep 10 2012

    Please post Sharon’s talk. I was too lazy to go see her in person & now I’m afraid I’ve missed it entirely! :^*

  • laurie hare commented on Sep 10 2012

    Yes, please, I would very much like to see this presentation were on TED.

  • Lisa McGowan commented on Sep 10 2012

    I love Sharon’s work — her photography, her writing, and her philosophy / passionate love for this earth. I have not been able to attend any of her talks, and am very much hoping that it will be posted here!

  • Nancy Polley commented on Sep 10 2012

    Sharon’s work is beautiful- would love to see it posted on TED!

  • Kim Smith commented on Sep 10 2012

    I saw Sharon’s work a couple of years ago and was completely taken in by it’s quiet beauty. I am thrilled to learn that she has done a TED talk, though I’m unable to find it. Is it be posted online? Thanks so much!

  • Abby Kent commented on Sep 10 2012

    Avian architecture- the best. Would very much enjoy seeing this presentation.

  • Janet Norris commented on Sep 10 2012

    I admire Sharon’s work – will this talk be posted on you tube?

  • Heather Polley commented on Sep 10 2012

    I’ve been looking forward to seeing a video of this talk. Please consider posting it.

  • Ivan Martinetti commented on Sep 10 2012

    This talk is fantastic, important and highly educational. We have been waiting for a long time for it to become available on the internet so we can share it.

  • j j commented on Sep 10 2012

    I have been so looking forward to witnessing this important Ted Talk. Sharon’s work is not only visually striking, but so significant in these times of environmental uncertainty. Please post her talk so we can learn more. Many thanks.

  • Deena Zacharin commented on Sep 10 2012

    I would love to hear this talk; I heard it was great! Will it be posted soon? thanks.

  • Ziska Childs commented on Sep 10 2012

    This was a gorgeous presentation and I’d love to be able to share it with more people. Is there any chance this will be posted in the near future?

  • Sue Collins commented on Mar 6 2012

    Beautiful work. Do you know how I can contact James Duncan Davidson? I am doing a story for my magazine about Sharon and would like to use the photo above. Thanks.

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  • commented on Feb 29 2012

    I collected SO many nest (along with parasites) in my childhood. And I used to put myself to sleep sitting at the base of trees where birds were bulding their nests in the early spring!