Von Wong Conference – University of East London

I attended the Von Wong conference last night which was hosted at the UEL Library Lecture Theater, Benjamin Von Wong is a Asian Montreal based photographer whose worked I discovered from watching his tutorials on You Tube.

The conference was billed for 6.30 but as normal I turned up early. Very early! I had an hour to waste… The UEL is situated on the north bank of the River Thames serviced by the Dockland Light Railway. It is also two minutes walk away from the station. So I walked around a bit and spoke to a member of staff and asked where the lecture was. As I walked towards the Lecture Theater I heard a massive roar of engines and watched as a plane took off from the nearby London City Airport. This gave me an idea for another walkabout shoot later in the year when it is a bit warmer. I found the lecture theater and was told they were just setting up so I sat out side and waited.

After about 10 minutes I heard a voice from down the corridor saying ‘I’m here in disguise, I’m gonna see how many people have turned up.’ It was Benjamin whose chosen disguise was himself, walking along with a couple of colleagues. We acknowledged each other with a nod as he walked into the theater. I didn’t want to say anything about that I was apparently the only one who had turned up but it was still early.

I was joined by other attendees shortly after so we decided to enter the theater and choose our seats. There was a lot to pick from but I choose the second row and about 10 seats in. This gave me a good view of the presentation and to make sure I could hear what Ben had to say. As the lecture started there were around eighty people I would guess in total.

Ben started off by apologizing for his accent, then talked about himself and gave a timeline of how he started taking photos of stars in his local town to eventually giving up his job as a mining engineer to do photography full time. Beginning with a quick talk about the Underwater Realm, he discussed a shoot from last year about guys who make armor, after he had a tour of the workshop they suggested doing a shoot which involved around 4o people and a couple of zombie horses. Next was a shot of a metal band who did not want a typical arms crossed against a brick wall looking bad ass shot so it eventually worked into a fight between the members of the band with exploding florescent light bulbs. Shot after shot was explained, mostly about setting fire to things. I wrote a good number of notes of things I would like to try but would probably never get around to doing but you never know.

Things that made me laugh was when Ben was trying to find one of his videos online and using Google, he scanned down the resulting search list muttering ‘No Asians,  no Asians..’, how everyone first starts off taking a few shots, thinking they look OK, going through the Dog phase, the Zombie phase, the Baby phase and your first shots taken with a f1.8 lens and thinking you are awesome! Yup, been there done that, but not zombies.. not yet. He did mention mixing explosions with babies at one point, how photography can be very ‘espensive’ and how he didn’t get to see missiles in Israel.

I had a quick chat with Ben after the event, thanking him for the lecture and mentioned my idea for a shoot I hope to do in the future. He asked that I let him know how the shoot goes which I will do. I was also given a ‘Von Wong’ wrist band as well as a bag of freebies. I walked away from the university with a list of notes and inspirational ideas for future shoots on my Nexus 7. Up until now I have not planned any proper shoots, past just looking up on the web for somewhere to go and visit. I need to expand a little bit and plan out a proper shoot, think of a theme, plan out the shot/s I want to do, get people involved and go out and do it.

Any ideas?

You can check out Ben’s work at his website at http://www.vonwong.com/

Von Wong

Von Wong wristband and failing raffle ticket.

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