Mossel Bay photographer talks at TEDxSeaPoint

Fiona Ayerst

500 million lovers of outstanding ideas have watched the enlightening, entertaining, and more often than not brilliant short lectures on the wildly popular TED web site (

And now a Mossel Bay woman has had her turn to speak at one of its popular community events: TEDxSeaPoint, which was titled ‘THE OCEANS INSPIRATION – Who moved my sushi?’ and drew an audience of 400 people.

Fiona Ayerst – a professional photographer who gave up the law in order to follow her passion for the sea (and who helps run Oceans Campus in Mossel Bay) – called her talk ‘My journey into water. How I have managed to live a life mostly submerged; And why.’

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a non-profit organisation that prides itself on delivering ‘Ideas worth spreading: Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.’ It began in California in 1984, and now presents two annual conferences in Long Beach and Palm Springs during the northern spring, and in Edinburgh (the TEDGlobal Conference) every summer.

Presenters have included people like Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners – and the best presentations from all TED events (both the conferences and community events) are available for viewing on line.

Fiona Ayerst at work. Image: D Wright - click to enlarge

The TED site was launched in June 2006, and by June 2011 its talks had drawn more than 500 million views – up from 50 million in 2009.
The TEDx program is designed to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at local level, and individual events include screenings of recorded TEDTalks and live presentations.

According to the TED site, “There are inspiring people in this world who show us that there is a glimmer of optimism that our marine resources can be saved.

“Wherever in the world you go, there are incredible people who are willing to do something in their respective fields to make a change. This is what the TEDxSeaPoint wants to achieve.”

Ms. Ayerst is one such.

“My sushi was firmly moved,” she said. “I started out as a practicing attorney in Johannesburg and I’m now a professional underwater photographer living in Mossel Bay.

“In my talk I took a brief look at how and why this happened, and why I chose to live and work in Mossel Bay.

“My presentation was illustrated with powerful images that transcend language barriers and other boundaries.

A black tip shark nudging Fiona Ayerst's camera. Image: Sijmon de Waal - click to enlarge

“People are affected on an emotional level by strong images, and I think that people who can’t get under the water are intensely influenced by images of the ocean – so I explained why I believe that influential photographers need to be vigilant about what they publish.

“Although I’m also a writer, I communicate mainly through my images, so in this talk I’m going to investigate the ‘mere-exposure effect,’ and what this will mean for the 20 young photographers who’ll be coming to Mossel Bay and with whom I’ll be working over the next six months.

“We live in exciting times and individuals have much more power than ever before – and this includes the power to influence others and to effect positive change.”

Ms. Ayerst said that speaking TEDxSeaPOint was an honour.

“But more than that, the day filled me with inspiration. I got messages of courage, faith, love, passion, science and technology from 23 outstanding speakers.

“Talks ranged from a look at the great food hoodwink by popular TV personality Justin Bonnello, through to Chris Fischer’s focus on critical scientific research, and to how philosopher Dr. Supraja Dharini connects with the oceans through her grassroots work with turtles in India.

Fiona Ayerst and a Zambezi shark. Image: Mike Fraser - click to enlarge

I came away from the conference with a boosted passion for sharing my love of water with the inhabitants of the Garden Route, and I’m filled with lessons and messages to share.”

Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm congratulated Ms. Ayerst on behalf of the town’s Proud Mossel Bay Campaign – which salutes local individuals who’ve attained especial achievements.

“We’re proud to have women like Fiona living in Mossel Bay, and working passionately for the environment – which is so vitally important both for its own sake, and for the sake of all mankind,” she said.

More information:

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