Vik Muniz delights in subverting a viewer's expectations. He uses unexpected materials to create portraits, landscapes and still lifes, which he then photographs.

Why you should listen

Slf-effacing, frankly open and thought-provoking, all at the same time, Vik Muniz explores the power of representation. He's known for his masterful use of unexpected materials such as chocolate syrup, toy soldiers and paper confetti, but his resulting images transcend mere gimmickry. Most recently, he's been working with a team at MIT to inscribe a castle on a grain of sand ... 

Muniz is often hailed as a master illusionist, but he says he's not interested in fooling people. Rather, he wants his images to show people a measure of their own belief. Muniz has exhibited his playfully provocative work in galleries all over the world and was featured in the documentary Waste Land, which follows Muniz around the largest garbage dump in Rio de Janeiro, as he photographs the collectors of recycled materials in which he finds inspiration and beauty. Describing the history of photography as "the history of blindness," his images simply but powerfully remind a viewer of what it means to see, and how our preconceptions can color every experience.

What others say

“Think of brilliant trickster Vik Muniz as the offspring of Man Ray and Jacques Henri Lartigue, combining the former's relentless experimentation, the latter's effortless wit, and their mutual inventiveness in work that defies category.” — Vince Aletti, the Village Voice

Vik Muniz’s TED talks

Vik Muniz on the TED Blog


Substance vs. style: a cognitive science approach

May 23, 2008

Fans of Vik Muniz may be interested to learn the results of a recent study which shows that, when we look at a painting, our brains process its content before registering its style. In the study, paintings were presented in pairs for different time lengths and the participants were asked to judge the similarity within […]

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Vik Muniz on

April 20, 2007

Vik Muniz makes art from pretty much anything, be it shredded paper, wire, clouds or diamonds. Here he describes the thinking behind his work and takes us on a tour of his incredible images. NEW: Read the transcript >> I was asked to come here and speak about creation. And I only have 15 minutes, […]

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Quotes from Vik Muniz

It’s not about fooling somebody, it’s actually giving somebody a measure of their own belief: how much you want to be fooled. That’s why we pay to go to magic shows and things like that.
Vik Muniz
TED2003 • 738K views Apr 2007
Funny, Ingenious