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Benjamin Thwaits

VIDEO:  "Focusing a lens on human potential"  

An evolutionary biologist by training, Ben didn't even know he liked working with kids. That changed when he took a job with Northwest Passage in western Wisconsin, a long-term treatment center for teenagers at risk. He handed his Canon to a student one day and quickly learned nature photography could reach his kids in powerful new ways. Now, hundreds of kids each year learn to start over and see the world “In a New Light,” which is the name of the program he helped start.
His students are often on the brink of existence, from severe depression, to emerging bipolar disorder, to recent suicide attempts, to a life on the run. Many come from backgrounds in poverty, neglect, and trauma. Their stunning photographs are celebrated through exhibitions around the US, as well as through the media. As their work has been viewed my millions around the nation, Ben’s photographers show us the potential of our most marginalized young people.
Ben earned his M.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior with a neuroscience minor from the University of Minnesota. In his previous work as a scientist, he conducted major research studies on black bears in Minnesota, elephants in India, and salmon in Lake Superior. However, he left science to pursue his dream of becoming a professional nature photographer, which he did for two years until he became part of the team at Northwest Passage in 2008.

Listen to ALL of the 2015 Talks & Performances

Luca Clemente: "From tent city to tiny house village"

COL Scott St. Sauver: "A MN approach to helping veterans heal"

Benjamin Thwaits: "Focusing a lens on human potential"

Sara Sherman: "Horses see our armor"

Mike Link and Kate Crowley: "Full Circle: Hiking around Lake Superior" 

Jason Edens: "A long-term solution to fuel poverty"

Hannah Stonehouse Hudson: "Empathy and the power of virtual communities"

Arlene Jones: "Who's at your table?"

Corey Medina: "Using blues to shed light"

Tane Danger: "Improv, wicked problems, and the platypus"

Marie Johnson: "Listening to the (her) heart"

Matthew Fluharty: "Changing the face of rural"

Rick McLean: "Storytelling through song"

Jessica Willits: "Reaching out in our schools"