I have been a fan and a friend of Benjamin Von Wong for years. I have seen him turn tech employees into athletic gods and seen him schmooze with the police while on a 13 hour photoshoot deep in a foggy forest. In my eyes, the genius that is buried in Von Wong's creative mind can do anything, and he always knows it. Well, little did I know, the man who once chained a model to a shipwreck to get the perfect shot, often doubts himself, much like all of us.
When Benjamin is feeling creative, and has some free time, he turns to social media for ideas on what to shoot next. This was the case on a recent trip to San Francisco. Looking for inspiration, he put a call to his fans on his Facebook page. "Anyone cool in San Francisco I should work with while I am here?". The responses started coming in fast and furious, but one stood out to him right away. "You should check out my daughter’s work! I think you’ll like it!: http://www.serpentfeathers.com/"
The woman's daughter is Ka Amorastreya, an artist and costume designer. Ka's feather costumes are elaborate, beautiful and all designed by hand. Benjamin was mesmerized at the dedication that Ka had put into her work. After reaching out to her to see if she wanted to shoot, and getting a gleeful yes, Benjamin immediately started to have doubts about himself. According to his blog post:
I was exhilarated. Mind racing, I started running through all the things I would need to lock down. Dates. Location. Talent. Assistants. All the typical variables that would be needed. Things I knew that I could figure out fairly quickly. Yet somehow, with that exhilaration also came a familiar underlying layer of stress. I was going to be working with someone amazingly talented who was going to give me her time and trust. what if I didn’t get the shots? What if she was disappointed?
Even while shooting with a $38,000 Mamiya Leaf Credo and almost $20,000 worth of Broncolor Move lights, Von Wong still was nervous. What if the location isn't epic enough? What if the lighting didn't look right on the exquisite feather costumes? Those questions and self doubts laid deep within Benjamin all the way until he nailed the first scene.
All the hard work that we had put into getting to this treacherous location was completely worth it when we managed to capture the perfect wave that just swept in looking like a water horse or dragon. Hands down, my favorite frame of the day. And just like that, I finally had something tangible within my grasp that Ka & Dinah (the makeup artist) were happy with, all the initial unspoken dread and worry that I had accumulated within me that was carefully hidden all throughout the day vanished within me. It was back to directing, having fun and experimenting now that I was certain I had at least one amazing piece in my grasp.
Image after image, costume after costume, the shoot came together perfectly on that windy, Pacific Ocean overlook in San Francisco. As usual, the incredible resulting images make it look easy. But as we know now, even the best in the industry have doubts about themselves sometimes. But it's how you attack those doubts that can turn you into a creative artist. Shy away from the opportunities because of these doubts can be damaging to both your confidence and your career.
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