Design TED Talks

Six great moments in timelapse photography

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Years ago, Steven Addis’s wife photographed him holding their 1-year-old daughter on the corner of 57 Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. On her second birthday, the family happened to be back in the city, so headed to the same corner for daddy-daughter photo, round two. The next year, Addis brought his daughter back to New York — on purpose, this time — to take the same photograph.

This annual ritual is now 15 years strong. And in today’s talk, filmed at TED2012, Addis shares his “15 most treasured photos,” all but the first two snapped by strangers he handed his camera to. The most recent image drew big laughs from the TED audience, as Addis is holding his now-teenaged daughter in his arms. She appears to be nearly his height.

“These photos are far more than proxies for a single moment or even a specific trip,” Addis says. “They are also ways for us to freeze time for one week in October and reflect on time and how we change from year to year—and not just physically, but in every way. Because while we take the same photo, our perspectives change.”

Addis’s hope in sharing this metamorphosis through photographs is to encourage others to take “an active role in consciously creating memories.”

To see Addis’ father-daughter photo series, watch his moving talk.  And below, a look at others who are realizing the power of the same image repeated over time in impressive, funny and meaningful time-lapse projects.

1. When he turned 30, Cesar Kuriyama decided to start filming one second every single day. The cut-together snippets show adventure, boredom, illness, nature, coffee, computers — that is, life, alternately exciting and mundane. Kuriyama gave the talk “Filming one second every day” at TED2012 about this now lifelong project.

Recently, Kuriyama has been working on a 1 Second Everyday App. This month, he took to Kickstarter to fund it. With over a week to go, the project already has twice the amount Kuriyama needed to get the app off the ground. Read the TED Blog’s Q&A with Kuriyama about why he decided to create the app, so others could film their lives too.

2. In a similar (and similarly beautiful) project, Dutch filmmaker and artist Frans Hofmeester filmed his daughter, Lotte, every day from birth to age 12. They do grow up fast—in under three minutes, in this case.

3. Last week, the New York Times’s Op-Docs team put out a video chronicling a day in the life of a piano on a street in New York City’s Washington Heights. This short film, by Anthony Sherin, has a gripping narrative arc—and inspires an unusual degree of empathy toward the piano, a.k.a. an inanimate object. (Spoiler: get out some tissues.)

4. And now for something completely different: this exuberant video of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is not just another cityscape time-lapse, argues Mashable: it “may just take the genre to a whole new level,” using “quick cuts, neck-twisting camera angles and a pumped up soundtrack to mesmerizing effect.” You may be inspired to visit, or at least to go party at a nightclub.

5. Still have that box of tissues handy? This video of the Milky Way, shot during May evenings in South Dakota, is the kind of majestic footage that makes you reflect on your place in the world. The videographer, Randy Halverson, has made a number of other time-lapse videos as well.


6. For the past 30 years, a family in China has held a photo ritual that is strikingly similar to Addis’. On Father’s Day, 31-year-old daughter Zhao Meng Meng posted on Weibo images of herself with her father, one taken every of year of her life. The amazing images quickly went viral.