Benjamin Von Wong: Inspiration and teamwork
The easiest ways to gain inspiration are to do what you love, work with people who are passionate about what you do, and make good art. That is the simple formula that photographer Benjamin Von Wong follows as he pushes his ideas to new levels every day.
Benjamin Von Wong discovered joy in photography when the woes of a personal relationship and its subsequent break up led him to quit his job as a mining engineer in Nevada and photograph beautiful night skies instead. A self-taught photographer, Von Wong takes anywhere from days to months to prepare his shoots. His team of collaborators are directed by Von Wong’s enthusiasm and imagination. He believes that the best team consists of people who share his ardour for projects.
In 2012, a dream came true for Von Wong when Underwater Realm, a collective of underwater filmmakers responded to his request to collaborate. Even though he was still working as a miner at the time, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. He met with the team in Europe to draft the shoot. The idea was to present the viewer with a behind-the-scenes sneak peek into the workings of a film shoot. On a tight schedule, Von Wong and the team organized complex makeup, models, costumes, and highend underwater shooting equipment. Painstakingly put together, the shoot finally came together, stamped with Von Wong’s unique creativity.
From the rustic dust lands of Israel to the cool refreshing waters of Bali, Von Wong has travelled to diverse places for shoots, instilling new forms of wonder at every location. Recently, he brought to life a scene from a Disney film. Von Wong and his crew gained “a few priceless hours in the oldest monastic library in the world and were given free rein to create some magic.” The Beauty and the Beast shoot at the Admont Abbey in Austria led to some trademark surreal images.
Von Wong wants the viewer to be transported from everyday life into something magical, even if just for an instant. He does not wish to direct a viewer’s experience but does want people “to feel something.” he explains. In his blog, he writes that inspiration is the momentum that drives an idea to completion and he looks forward to instances that “move and transform.” He states, “I definitely am attracted to all things that are surreal and stand out.” The photographer encourages artists seeking inspiration to “Get out there, meet new people, and listen. Everybody has a unique story, and these tales can trigger emotions that may inspire you.”
Von Wong’s blog provides a guide, of sorts, on what photographers should do once they have a brilliant idea. Putting things into motion can be a challenge for many people. Fighting inertia and finding the cues for inspiration that will help to push through moments of procrastination can make all the difference. Von Wong says believing in your project is crucial. He also encourages people to be confident in the success of their projects. “If you let your passion show in your
eyes and in everything you say about it, others will latch on to the excitement and follow you till the end.”
When looking for a great team to work with, he suggests that the stakes for all those involved should be held in clear view. “People are going to want to know what’s in it for them,” he writes in his blog. “In creative collaborations, people are donating their time and talent and will be expecting something in return.”
Keeping in mind what other people will gain by partnering up with you will get you honest and sincere work. Of course, to get people to follow you, they need to be presented with a strong portfolio. Stories of success speak for themselves. Von Wong writes, “It does not matter if the projects [in your portfolio] are slightly unrelated. People are looking for proof that you won’t be wasting their time.”
For those just starting out, Von Wong recommends going with smaller projects and building from those achievements. In short, create an impressive track record. He also recommends, “It can become overwhelming when there are too many pieces to hold together. Try to delegate responsibilities. Not only will this lighten your own workload, it will also make people feel included and acknowledged.”
Von Wong constantly emphasizes the importance of following up with collaborators before the shoot. The photographer, as the glue holding the whole project together, should follow up with fellow artists to ensure they are still on board. “It is your duty to keep that excitement going. Let them be aware of the progress to keep the momentum alive.”
Von Wong’s advice on starting a project is simple yet full of wisdom. He says, “I think that the key to starting something is to simply start it. People have the tendency of doing things ‘later’ and they never get done. If you have an idea in mind, give yourself a deadline and make it happen. Don’t worry about making it perfect right off the bat … you will make mistakes, guaranteed! You will also fail at some point in time, so accept that reality and try anyways. Whatever it is you want to do in life, start today.”
Check out Von Wongs' latest projects at: www.vonwong.com