Among his many amazing photographic accomplishments, Benjamin Von Wong has photographed models with sharks underwater in Fiji and an adventurous quadriplegic mom hanging off the side of a cliff in Australia.
There’s no doubt that his images are evocative and spectacular. They are an impactful combination of artistic style and technical abilities which calls attention to real-life issues.
One of Benjamin Von Wong’s most recent projects that caught our eye was a piece that highlighted the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, and we were happy to face mount his photo “Plastic Beach” on TruLife® Acrylic.
We had the chance to catch up with Benjamin and hear about how he became a photographer, how this project came to be, and why it’s so important to him.
Your work is so beautiful and unique! How did you get started in photography and when did you know it was a passion for you?
I started photography in 2007 after a girl broke up with me. This was while I was working in a mine in Winnemucca, Nevada, and I figured that if I didn’t find a new hobby soon then I would go crazy.
I’m not exactly sure when it “became a passion” for me. In some ways, I think I was a lot more passionate about photography in the beginning than I am today. It has become a lot less about the photography but more about the mission to get these photographs.
How did you get involved in this project to bring awareness to plastic pollution?
A little haphazardly, if I am to be completely honest. My mom found a mermaid tail designer while hunting for someone to tweak my sister’s wedding dress.
That kick started a series of thoughts and events that led to… well, 10,000 plastic bottles and mermaids!
Please share a little about the logistics of setting up this shoot. What technical “secret sauce” does Benjamin Von Wong use?
I think the biggest “secret sauce” for this project was naiveté and never doubting that the project COULD work! And then, simply solving the complex problems that arose one step at a time and not losing hope.
As far as the equipment used for this shot, I used the Sony A7r-ii, 16-35mm | ISO500, 18mm, f/4.0, 1/60 with Broncolor strobes. Along with that was a warehouse, thousands of plastic bottles, an army of volunteers, pulleys, and an iPad.
This video shows much of the process, technical challenges, and how it all came together…
The photographs from this series are incredibly powerful. What do you want viewers to feel about the images and the message?
I hope people love the images, but feel sad enough that it will inspire them to change something within their behavior.
In so many ways, we’re fighting a losing battle against plastic pollution, but I believe that at least creating these photos was a morale booster.
Why did you think “Plastic Beach” was a good candidate for a TruLife® Acrylic?
I think “Plastic Beach” is one of the sadder images of the series. It shows an odd cross-section between a plastic reality and a location that we so often associate with vacation and holidays. The only exception is that there is a beaten and battered mermaid washed ashore.
With vividly popping colors and an almost 3D like print quality, TruLife Acrylic seemed to have the best representation possible.
Where can people see more and purchase prints from the Mermaids series?
To help spread the word, I’m offering the prints from this series at cost: http://www.vonwong.com/Store/MermaidsHatePlastic/
What other suggestions do you have on how people can help reduce plastic pollution?
Three things you can do today to make a difference.
- Buy yourself a reusable bottle today. It doesn’t have to be expensive – one great innovative young company that I like is Refillit!
- Make a commitment to consider whether to accept the next piece of plastic that is offered to you, whether it’s a plastic bag, a straw or a water bottle in your Uber ride.
- Learn a few horrible facts about plastic pollution and tell your friends over the next coffee or drink you get!
So much of your work gets a ton of engagement online, often going viral, and you use social media to share your projects. Do you have a favorite channel, and as a photographer, what do you love about it?
For me, Facebook is the largest, but I’m also on Instagram, YouTube, 500px, and Twitter. I don’t really think there is a perfect channel out there, but we just make the best with what we have.
For photographers and in general, it’s just so amazing that you can connect with complete strangers around the world.
To see more of Benjamin Von Wong’s work:
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