TED Inspiration

One thing that’s easy to forget as an artist, is to take time to be inspired. For those of you who regularly read this blog you know I try to stop every once in a while and have an Inspiration Day.

It’s not always easy. There are always deadlines that need attention. Work that needs to be finished. But without inspiration… what’s the point of it all?

Today I received an email from my friend Annie who was wondering if I had seen the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) lecture by Miru Kim. I hadn’t. And one click of the mouse later, today became this week’s Inspiration Day.

TED began in 1984 as a small gathering of people to share ideas from those three disciplines, all challenged to give a 18 minute talk: The Talk of Their Lives in 18 Minutes.

Since then TED has expanded their scope and on the TED website you can view hundreds of inspiring talks given over the years.

After several hours of viewing the thoughts and ideas of a diverse group of humans such as brilliant war photographer James Nachtwey, National Geographic Photo Director David Griffin, French bio-chemist, turned Buddhist Monk, author and photographer Matthieu Ricard, fellow non-theist Richard Dawkins, and comic actor and solo performer Julia Sweeney, I decided to become part of the community.

And as I was filling our the various bio and personal information pages, I fully realized something that I had been feeling for several months now.

My photography is changing.

My point of view is changing.

What I consider an important personal photograph is changing.

It’s only possible to understand when you hit a milestone when you’ve passed it and have some distance, but I have a feeling I’ve just passed such a milestone. I’ll know in a year or two.

I still consider my photography of women and the places I’ve traveled to very important. I don’t plan on ceasing to create that work that I’ve taken such pleasure in over the years.

neworleans_09feb2009_0328_tonemapped-11No, but I do think I’ve begun to add to my palette. There are new kinds of photographs I want to create. It began in Santa Fe, New Mexico over a year ago and continued most recently last month a visit to New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward.

It’s going to take some time for me to fully understand the new path I’m exploring. It may be more evident to viewers of my recent work than it is to me at the moment. But I know if I just follow my muse, my bliss, I’ll be on my right path.

Here are the series of forms I filled out to become a member of the TED community today. …

ABOUT ME: Billy Sheahan is a Chicago fine art photographer specializing in inspiring images, both human and man-made. His nude work elevates his subjects to a place that is graceful, powerful and uniquely woman.

Billy’s travel images of France, The Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Canada evoke a timeless thoughtfulness that take the observer on a journey with each viewing.

Both genres exhibit his signature style of seeking out and capturing beauty in his photography. Billy’s work has been exhibited in galleries and the homes of private collectors for more than 15 years.

“…To capture a moment in a way that a hundred people would walk past without noticing. To imagine something and express it in a photo. Finding beauty and keeping it forever.” -Billy Sheahan

His film editing career is as varied as his photography. His advertising clients have included Leo Burnett, BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi, Ogilvy & Mather, A. Eicoff, Cramer-Krasselt, DraftFCB and DDB. Billy was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on the independent film Ruth’s Journey. The short film Mrs. Marshall, edited by Billy, had its premiere at le Festival de Cannes (Cannes Film Festival).


I’m passionate about

Curiosity. I love to explore and I feel life is best when one keeps learning about people and cultures that are different from my own. I love capturing a moment such as this with my photography.

An idea worth spreading

My personal mantra is: The answer is something you can’t possibly imagine… yet.

In other words, many times we work and work to come up with a solution to a problem. Looking at all the angles. But no answer is forthcoming.

I’ve learned that for me, the reason the answer has not appeared is because I don’t have enough experience yet. Like a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces, it’s impossible to see the whole picture.

I’ve learned to put the question down, continue to live and be open to new people and ideas. Perhaps the answer will be known tomorrow when I have a conversation with someone I have not met yet. Perhaps it will come in an email that won’t be written until next week or next month.

Time is not an enemy. Time is a friend. The journey of experience is something I treasure. Knowing that I might be wrong in what I currently believe. Being open to new things.

Only then can I imagine the answer to my question.

Talk to me about

How has art opened up your eyes to the world around you, both locally and globally? What have you learned by viewing what others have created? How has it changed your world view?

People don’t know that I’m good at

I’m a good writer. Maybe as good a writer as a photographer. That’s what I’m hearing these days anyway. I’ve started to write the stories that go with my photographs; what inspired me to make them.

My TED story

During a trip to Mykonos Greece in the mid-1990s I stepped out of my villa at sunrise. A neighbor walked out at the same time.

“English?” I asked.
“No,” he replied. “Francais?”
“No,” I responded.
I thought for a moment.
“Español?” I tried again.
He smiled. “Un poco.”
“Es bonita dia,” I mustered in what little Spanish I knew.
“Si,” he agreed.
“Chicago, United States,” I added.
“Belgium,” he said.

It was a powerful moment and one that taught me that often we have to find new ways to communicate with others. We have to be creative. Go where we’re not always comfortable. My neighbor and I found a way to communicate, not in our native language but meeting in Spain to share the beautiful morning.

My wish is to understand what is at first, foreign to me. Through my photography, I want to bridge the canyons that at first seem impassable. I want to take people to places and cultures they may never see with their own eyes.

I wish to weave understanding into the world.

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2 thoughts

  1. Wow! I am happy to have helped you find such an impactful resource. I truly wish I had known about TED talks when they first began, so I wouldn’t have thousands of hours of catching up to do!

    Let me know when you get that call to give your Big Talk. I would like to be there.

  2. Hey Billy – I’m always inspired when I read one of your blog posts. Glad you discovered TED. You should also look for TEDx events in and around Chicago – or wherever you travel to. They are the babies of TED, same concept, but organized and produced locally. I saw our mentor Doug Menuez at TEDx San Francisco a while back. Even attended a TEDx event in Bangkok during my travels here in SE Asia.

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