Lunch with THE Von Wong

Adrenaline is the only superpower human beings have.

 

How do you meet a creative who constantly hop scotches the globe in search of epic trouble and who is so alive burns a hole right through any schedule of conformity? Simply saying yes please to a last minute adventure landed me on an amazing two hour lunch date with the notorious photographer and creative Benjamin Von Wong right before he rushed off to LA.

What is the source that makes Von Wong feel alive?

“Adrenaline.”

He referenced climbing a crane and blood rushing through his body. As the rolodex of thoughts flipped through my brain I tried to marry up which photo shoot he could be referring to. There have been sharks swimming around models tied to shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea, fire & the dangling of humans off a skyscraper in California. Legally he could be Benjamin Adrenaline Von Wong.

With his middle name confirmed and the weapon of his choice established as his camera, what happens when the plot of his current life story hypothetically changes?

If your story changed and I took away your camera and eliminated photography from your life, who would you be?

“I would be a superhero.”

As a girl who has cat woman tattooed on her back, I could appreciate this response on many levels. The thought taps the romantic feeling of fortitude we all seem to be in love with. Sitting at Kitchen Story in San Francisco my eyes surveyed his hearty veggie melt sandwich and when I glanced up I suddenly saw the resemblance of Clark Kent with his dark rimmed glasses.

Foregoing the typical characteristics of a superhero such as flashy outfits and high tech gadgets, what is at the root of every great super hero?

At the heart is caring and gumption.

I sent a text message to my good friend Merriam Webster and asked her what the full definition of a superhero was. She replied back; “a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also :  an exceptionally skillful or successful person.” The plot thickens.

Having a relaxed and organic conversation I could confirm this human’s pilot light is burning brightly and the fuel isn’t the stereotypical ego I feared would be lurking after I stripped away the mirage the internet may have created. In true adrenaline junkie form, he already has the next challenge perched on a ledge high above him.

Sand.

“Did you know we are running out of it?” he asked.

Von Wong’s vision is to do what he does best, take on a challenge that seems impossible. He wants to shoot a sand storm and do it for a surge of awareness.

He quickly brought me up to speed listing all the ways we use sand which is almost everything that falls under the construction umbrella. Think of the booming business to build bigger cities and the continual need to expand. Every building built from concrete, every piece of glass we use for the windows, down to the silicon chip used in our computers are made from sand. Desert sand cannot be figured into this equation because that sand typically is eroded by wind and is shaped to round for it to be a good candidate in construction. That leaves us with less sand to play with then we all think.

Every heroic story has a villain.

Within all of Von Wong’s shoots there lies a challenge. Hungry sharks, burning fire, stomach churning heights and countless other dangers. Are these the villains? We are consuming sand faster now than what is being produced. Are we the villains?

What are the real challenges?

“It’s getting people to care.”

This man eats challenges we think are impossible for breakfast and he has the clear vision of who the real enemy of this world is. The villain is not giving a shit.

 

“You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself first.” ~A Caregivers Creed

 

As I travel the country questioning people about their aliveness status it puts me in a prime space to observe. The need for connection is a staple ingredient. People walking the pathways to becoming unapologetically free and alive places them naturally on a vibration beyond the superficial. What happens from there is an organic process. The more alive you are, the more connected you become and the more you naturally begin to give a shit. Treat the root, cure the symptom.

Von Wong understands connection is a vital nutrient to stay fully alive. He openly invites people into his world to play with him. Through his website it states “enter and explore his unique universe.” Seriously, that’s not just a call to click button. For example, the storm chasing shoot was probably his brain child, but he opened the shoot up to his Facebook fans to come hang out and be in the shoot as his models and helpers. Together we can do amazing things and they did.

This epic creative is attracted to challenges that produce surreal photography. His art is the visualbridge showcasing the magnitude of human potential and boldly asks you to think about the world around you. What a gift it is to have someone in this world whose madness creates a visual ecstasy, feeding our desires to be alive.

In the video “Who is Benjamin Von Wong” he states: “It’s all about finding solutions to make something that is seemingly impossible and making it into something that is better than reality.” He was describing his typical photo shoot but I think this could be nominated as the new nonconformists’ creed.

At the end of the day when the camera is gently laid back in the case to rest and all the models go home I am now convinced caring and gumption remain. This exceptionally skillful and successful person uses his superpowers to create massive art as a result from showing up every day with the thirst to live.

In short, I had lunch with a superhero.