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Achromatic Ashes and Snow and Critical Nature Bank

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In a rare public appearance, photographer Gregory Colbert shares an astounding film from his exhibit, Ashes and Snow, and announces his new initiative, the Animal Copyright Foundation, which aims to collect royalties from companies using images of nature in their ad campaigns. For more than a decade, Gregory Colbert has traveled the world and collaborated with 40+ species to create “Ashes and Snow,” a ground-breaking exhibition of more than 100 photographs and three films, housed in the Nomadic Museum. Colbert’s extraordinary sepia-toned images reveal a rarely seen poetic beauty in man’s relationship to the animal kingdom. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 18:42)


Once a year, 1000 remarkable people gather in Monterey, California to exchange something incalculable value: their ideas. What happens there has never been shared…until now.

TED – Ideas Worth Spreading.


For the past 14 years I had been an apprentice to nature. Over the course of 34 expeditions, I collaborated with over 45 species. They come together in the form of 21st century bestiary called Ashes and Snow that is now been exhibited in the Nomadic Museum at Santa Monica.

It was previously shown in New York City and Venice, Italy. And this exhibition includes 3 films and over 100 large scale photographs on Japanese paper.

Like all bestiary it is not design to provide an intellectual understanding of nature. Ashes and Snow attempts to inspire an emotional understanding of nature and our place within it. Over the next 10 years this exhibition will travel to Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Now before I show you the excerpt from the film. I should clarify my use of the term bestiary because the word had disappeared in western culture. In most society a bestiary expresses poetic understanding of men relationship to animal and their environment.
The jaguar resonated with the Mayan, the falcon with the Egyptian, the buffalo with the Native American and eland with the San (Bushmen).

Bestiary had traditionally associated with one geographical place or culture. A universal bestiary has never existed that gather all the totemic species of the planet. The creation of that bestiary is my life’s work.

I will now show you 10 minutes from the film, and I want to remind you that none of the images are computer generated or digitally collage. This is exactly what I saw from the lens of my camera.

Now hopefully that your heart had been opened, maybe I can open your minds. This morning, rather speaking further about Ashes and Snow, I would now like to undertake a more important mission. That we begin at this moment to renegotiate one of our contracts with nature.It is standard practise around the world to compensate human beings for use of their intellectual property, artistry and participation in advertising. While the laws varied somewhat from place to place, the concept of fair payment for use of another person’s property in advertising is not disputed.

Actors are paid; musicians are compensated for use of musical score and so forth. Until now that’s not been the case for nature and animals. Every year corporation spent billion of dollars in advertising their product using nature and animals.

A car company might use a mustang; an insurance company might use whales; a credit card company might use an eagle; to brand its product or service much in the same way the company would contract a particular actor or model to shape its corporate image.

But unlike human, natures are not paid for its contribution. This practice reveal our failure to understand a basic principle of nature: one must gives back what one takes to preserve and sustain the world that we live.

We are the richest generation in human history because we took more of nature than we put back. But of course we cannot do so indefinitely. Until now because they had no representation, animals had been used without compensation. It is for this reason; I’m founding Animal Copyright and Animal Copyright Foundation. A non-profit entity that exist to serve and preserve species and habitat around the world.

Starting January 1st 2007, the foundation will collect 1% of all media buys including print, broadcast and internet that uses animals. This payment will go to Animal Copyright Foundation. These funds will be distributed each year to different conservation projects around the world.

If this idea is embraced, in 3 years if not sooner, it will become the largest environmental fund in the world without relying on any fundraising.

After January 1st 2007, any corporate poachers of the intellectual property of nature will have to content with the negative responds they could receive should they not display an Animal Copyright symbol when using animals in their advertising.

WebCrawlers, bloggers and environmentally motivated individuals everywhere should be empowered as steward of this idea. Moreover Animal Copyright provides an immediately recognizable way for responsible company to communicate their awareness and commitment to the environment and preserving the world natural habitat and species.

The Animal Copyright symbol must enter the popular consciousness of all cultures. Animal Copyright is in a sense; a long overdue payment to the animal world for the annual services rendered to advertisers around the globe.

The fund will serve as a nature bank that would aim to restore and support effective conservation. Now, know that the success of this effort could provide renewable financial resources for any number of the extraordinary ideas that you heard in the last few days at TED such as Al Gore effort at raising awareness of our climate collapse.

So maybe the moving images that I show you earlier inspire an active not a passive emotion.

And on behalf of the elephants, thank you for listening.


To date, Animal Copyright Foundation isn’t materialised yet. It would be more ideal if it’s apart of World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) foundation per se where the management is sound and concrete.

Here’s a part of the Ashes and Snow exhibition at the Nomadic Museum in Odaiba, Tokyo from March 11th through June 24th, 2007.






Ethan Zuckerman‘s musings on Africa, international development
and hacking the media: Gregory Colbert, on behalf of the elephants.

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Written by cthulhu

June 26, 2007 at 7:05 am

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