Profiled on TED Rick Smolan is an acclaimed photographer who is the co-creator of the America at Home project, which captured the “emotions of home” across the United States during a week in September 2008. More than 20,000 photographers — pros and amateurs — sent images to a team of editors assembled by Smolan and partner Jennifer Erwitt, who turned the photos into an eye-popping book. It’s become a best-seller, of course, helped along by the fact that buyers can choose their own image for the cover.

Smolan has long been a force for exploring culture through photography. The Day in the Life photography series that he cofounded — best-selling photo books that captured life in America, Australia, the Soviet Union … — were an ’80s cultural phenomenon. (Rare was the coffee table without at least one of them.) In the 1990s his production company, Against All Odds, investigated the storytelling powers of interactive CD-ROMs with From Alice to Ocean, a narrative of a cross-Australia trek, and Passage to Vietnam, exploring that country as it opened up in the early 1990s. 24 Hours in Cyberspace took a snapshot of the booming industry in 1996, and One Digital Day in 1997 further explored our fascination with tech.

Along with collaborator Jennifer Erwitt, Smolan published the beautiful Blue Planet Run in 2007, about the drive to bring fresh drinking water to everyone on Earth. It’s packed with glorious (and sometimes shocking) images and data about our planet’s water. In an unprecedented move, offers Blue Planet Run as a free PDF download. Download the free PDF of Blue Planet Run >>

Smolan’s latest work is The Obama Time Capsule, a collection of photographs and insights capturing the historical election of President Barack Obama, from the beginning of his campaign to his first 100 days in office.

“Not since Roy Stryker, who ran an unparalleled photography project through the Farm Security Administration from 1935 until 1942, has America seen itself documented so thoroughly.”

San Francisco Chronicle