“Invisible Ideas Shape Landscapes:" A Discussion on Photography and Creation

|| Photo credit to Kieran Dodds

|| Photo credit to Kieran Dodds


The graph on the projector screen showed the number of photos taken, soaring into the hundreds of billions each year.

“Photography matters because it is universal,” Kieran Dodds, environmental photographer and journalist told the students and faculty of The King’s College in the City Room during his mid-day talk on Monday. “A photograph is a slice of time, and these fragments of time expand our perception of time.”

Dodds, a native of Scotland, travels globally for his photography, from Zambia, where he photographed the bats that play a central role in the spread of seeds, to Tibet, where he recorded the shifting lifestyles of indigenous people living at the head of rivers which provide water for billions living downstream. In each of these places, Dodds says the things which stand out to him are the ways in which “invisible ideas shape landscapes.”

Kieran Dodds speaking at The King’s College in New York City on April 29, 2019. || Photo credit to Brendan Bell.

Kieran Dodds speaking at The King’s College in New York City on April 29, 2019. || Photo credit to Brendan Bell.

Dodds recently completed a series of photographs in Ethiopia entitled Hierotopia, meaning “sacred space.” The pictures capture churches in a deforested rural Northern Ethiopia, sheltered by what Dodds describes as “islands of green,” patches of forest life protected by the presence of a church which have become a vital part of preservation in a changing landscape.

“There isn’t enough space in the church buildings, so the forests have become part of the churches,” he said. “The people are singing alongside monkeys and birds.”

When asked about his faith and how it impacts his work, Dodds says he has only seen positive correlation between Christian ideals and good journalism.

“The earth is the Lord’s, so everything is of interest. My work doesn’t need to be polemic or didactic. [My faith] doesn’t need to be explicit, but implicit.”

To both the photographers and the people who take photos on their phones (which he believes includes nearly everyone now), Dodds offered his advice.

“Make photographs, don’t just take them,” Dodds said. “Think about how the photo is going to look, what goes into it. And make photographs, as in physical prints. Having something like that will help you appreciate what you are doing a lot more.”