First up in a new series of interviews with artists and photographers who are creatively raising awareness of marine plastic pollution is photographer Benjamin Von Wong. He’s created these striking photos to ignite conversation about ocean health using a mermaid and 10,000 plastic bottles.
‘I’m really inspired by people who are changing the world. People who are driving that conversation’
Interview with Benjamin
What led you to want to create work from marine plastic?
‘I think I’ve always wanted to do projects that make the world a better place. I sort of stumbled in on waste plastic, because first I found a mermaid and then I decided that ocean plastics would be the appropriate theme for a mermaid in order to tell a good story. So I learned a lot about ocean plastics during and after the project, but not so much before that. I think the sequence of events was a little bit different.’
What message do you want to convey with your work?
‘I want people to understand that ocean plastics is a huge problem and to encourage them to act and not just turn their head the other way. It’s very easy to pretend to be ignorant or to just not want to care, because the world has a lot of problems and it makes life complicated. But I hope it gets people to care a little bit more and bring the issue of plastic pollution a little bit closer to the top of people’s minds.’
‘It’s very easy to pretend to be ignorant or to just not want to care, because the world has a lot of problems and it makes life complicated’
What audience are you hoping to reach?
‘I’m hoping to reach a new audience. I feel that my work is slightly different in that it doesn’t preach to the choir. Young people can look at it, anyone can look at it, and get the message so it doesn’t have to be a group that’s particularly environmentally focused and I think that’s what’s unique about my work.’
What’s your inspiration? Are you inspired by any artists in particular?
‘I don’t really have any particular inspirations for my style of work, it’s just what I’ve been doing and developing over time. I’m really inspired by people who are changing the world. People who are driving that conversation. I admire people like Leonardo DiCaprio who’s taking acting into the conservation sphere. I admire people like Al Gore who’ve dedicated their life through presidency to raise awareness about climate change and the issues affecting our planet. I respect people like Elon Musk who are billionaires who are trying to make the world a better place. Those are the type of people I look up to.’
Has working with plastics made you change your style?
‘I don’t really think so. The big difference after this project is that I’ve been getting a lot of requests for art installations, which is kind of new.’
We need to reduce our plastic consumption. Do you have any suggestions for changes we can make to our daily lives?
‘I think it’s all about starting small. Just buying a water bottle, like a canteen, and committing to bring it everywhere and refill it is a very simple way. Not using plastic bags and saying no to straws before you’re given one is really the key to getting started. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it takes little steps and as people commit to something they become more and more committed over time.’
I think it’s all about starting small. Just buying a water bottle, like a canteen, and committing to bring it everywhere and refill it is a very simple way’
Do you have future plans for more work with a marine conservation message?
‘I would sure hope so. Nothing is locked in stone yet so I don’t really want to promise anything, but yes I do hope to do more marine conservation projects.’