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Glazer's Camera

2009: Rick Smolan

Rick Smolan’s children (Jesse, 9, far left; Phoebe, 12, far right) have fun with their friends from school, Tommy and Anthony Radke. Rick Smolan’s children (Jesse, 9, far left; Phoebe, 12, far right) have fun with their friends from school, Tommy and Anthony Radke.
© Rick Smolan

After 3 years, we catch up with our past Photography Person of the Year award-winner, Rick Smolan, to see how his career has progressed.

Rick Smolan, creator of the popular "Day in the Life" series of photography books, recently used his own family as the subject of one of his projects, called "Natasha's Story."

"It's based on a project I've been shooting for more than 30 years about an 11-year-old Amerasian girl left to me in an old woman's will in Korea in 1978 when I was 28," Smolan explains. "[Self-publishing site] Blurb.com did a limited print run of the book as their official gift to investors and media. A TED talk I did about the story has been viewed almost a million times and I am still fine-tuning the prototype of the book — and an iPad app — for 2014 release."

Last year, he also helped YouTube celebrate its five-year anniversary by arranging for 1,000 video cameras to be sent to 40 countries in remote areas of the world so that the voices of people on the other side of the digital divide could be included in a single film. The result was "Life in a Day," a feature-length documentary film produced by Ridley Scott that was released last year.

His latest photo-book project is "The Human Face of Big Data," which analyzes how today's massive storing and sharing of digital information (about 5 exabytes of data every two days, or 5 quintillion bytes) can be one of the most transformative tools ever devised — with both positive and negative consequences.

To complete this immense project, Smolan plans to coordinate vast numbers of people on a global scale, including: assigning 100 photojournalists in 30 countries to capture stories about data sharing; connecting 10 million people worldwide who will be invited to serve as "human sensors" for a day to provide a unique "3-D snapshot of humanity"; and gathering teachers and students to measure, analyze, map and compare their worlds using data. By the end of 2012, he plans to release a large-format book and air a CNN TV special about the "Human Face" project.

Learn more: myamericaathome.com
Randy Woods
Story Author: Randy Woods

Randy Woods, editor of PhotoMedia, has been in the magazine publishing world for more than 20 years, covering such varied topics as photography, insurance, business startups, environmental issues and newspaper publishing. He is also associate editor for iSixSigma magazine and writes a job—search blog for The Seattle Times called “Hire Ground.”

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