Selling Oxygen: How Politics Inspires Photography

Imagine if we started selling oxygen as a commodity, as a medicine for a sick and polluted planet. What would that fantasy look like? Benjamin Von Wong explores this in his latest series, and is bringing to light the very real market for oxygen in China.

Teaming up with an eclectic mix of people, Von Wong found himself in Germany to create something inspired by environmental damage, “Mad Max,” and eventually, politics. This wasn’t a political statement at first. “However, with President Trump’s recent commitment to bring back coal,” he explained, “my fantastical concept started to feel a lot more real.” This was also sparked by Von Wong seeing companies selling oxygen in China due to rampant pollution issues.

Alarmingly, these products are also being sold in the U.S., Mexico, Iran, and India as well. The issue isn't isolated to China, however when researching for the project he found that his own elementary school in Beijing keeps their gym in an airlocked dome. This background doesn't mean that this is a strong political project, and Von Wong understands that a statement work doesn’t not necessarily lead to change — but at the end of the day it’s a fun project that has real meaning.

A Feel Good Project

[Behind the scenes on Von Wong's set]

Teaming up with Wasteland Warriors, and as such finding a group of enthusiasts in Germany, the plan was set in motion. With their help, a collection of volunteer models and assistants, and a fitting location, most of the work was done before they arrived on set. Props were made from scratch, even taking to a local scrap yard to borrow some steampunk-esque equipment.

This project was born out of devoted volunteering and kindness from across the globe. At every step of the way, Van Wong describes how somebody helped him out. He saved time, money, and avoided any negative impact.

All in all, it’s a commendable project. Von Wong is coming at this from the right perspective and really appears to be conscious of how people should look at this. He even realized that using smoke on set is arguably against what the idea stands for. As a result he donated to and has encouraged his followers to learn about the ongoing crisis, and even sign petitions to push change in government.

The images are striking, wonderfully themed, and their backstory is the icing on the cake. Personally, I wonder if the final images are a little too stylized, since the original photos look stunning before any post work. Then again, if you’re trying to give “Mad Max” some competition, it’s hit the nail on the head. What do you think?


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Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

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Love Von Wong! Brilliant stuff as usual

Sounds like a darker version of the Movie "The Lorax". Too bad it actually has the potential to become reality ...

I love the tree in a jar with hoses attached so that people can breathe. But I do not see anyone pumping in some Carbon dioxide so that the tree can breathe. Possibly in the next film?

And using Trump in his picture please, been in office one month, show the last eight years. If you saw Trump walk on water my guess is your headline would be " TRUMP CAN"T SWIM".

I guess it's a good thing Trump isn't the messiah then eh.

I am sorry, but these images are not very well produced. I have felt this way about Von Wong's work recently. I feel like he is trying to jump from one hot button topic to the next and not focusing on the project at hand. The video was amazing and the production that went into it is all lost with the final images. They just don't do it justice. I am not knocking him because at least he is doing something, but he is much better than this. I guess this is just proof that concept beats execution.