Benjamin Von Wong is the embodiment of the new breed of creative. A self-taught photographer who prefers to call himself a "creator," Benjamin is open to all forms of expression — often working in video or any other medium required to do the job. He crowd-sources everything from crew to gear, bringing together professionals, friends, and fans alike to help him realize his ideas.
Social media and community play a primary role in both his production process and creative expression, and he recently crowd-funded a trip across Europe, making it up as he went along.
"I may not know anybody," he says about arriving in a new city, "but it only takes one person who believes in you to have everything come together because everybody knows somebody else."
Benjamin started his professional life as a mining engineer, lured by the promise of travel and adventure. He did travel, but working in mines in some of the most desolate places on earth wasn't exactly what he had in mind. It was while on a work trip to the middle of Nevada (and after breaking up with a girlfriend) that Benjamin got his first camera and started taking pictures. He learned everything he knows from the Internet, watching tutorials, downloading trial versions of products, playing with tools, and essentially willing himself into a professional photographer. Because of that, giving back to the community and sharing what he learns with others is an important part of his process.
Benjamin's open, enthusiastic nature and his generous spirit are a big part of his success. When you spend time with him, it's hard not to be caught up by his energy, and he welcomes people to come, observe, and even participate on his shoots.
I've never seen a creative professional make something from nothing as quickly and effortlessly as he does. On our recent shoot, he contacted a designer and a model, reached out to a local taxidermist to secure some unique props, found some dramatic Toronto locations, and recruited a handful of aspiring professionals on social media to help out, getting the shoot together in just a couple of days.
"I'm offering a great time, images to add to their portfolio, and really just a different day. I mean, who's going to spend their Thursday on a beach with a leopard and a topless model in five-degree weather? It just doesn't happen."
A different day indeed, and Benjamin's work is different, too; blurring production and post-production, it's larger than life, epic, and fantastic, and he'll incorporate anything at hand, from leaf blower to flamethrower.
Benjamin moved a lot as a kid — Canada, California, Texas, China, and back again — and while Montreal is home, he thinks of himself as a citizen of the world. As a professional, he still leads a pretty nomadic existence, spending roughly half the year on the road, carrying everything he needs for both his personal and professional life in three well-packed bags. But wherever he goes, he meets new people and creates inspiring work.
Creative Voices is an ongoing project that features interviews and documentaries of innovative artists and agencies creating cutting-edge work, as well as other talented or up-and-coming designers, artists, filmmakers, photographers, and more.
Dan Cowles is the creative director for video at Adobe and the curator and managing editor of the Creative Voices project.