The story starts with Von Wong getting a completely unexpected challenge from Nike, out of thin air. Their note was brief and to the point:
What would you do if you could run on thin air?
With the challenge accepted, Benjamin, naturally, goes to the Philippines and does a full photo story about people running around on skyscrapers. Run on air = Sprinting around on the side of skyscrapers, and riding bikes off the side of skyscrapers, right? Of course.
So, a bit later, he’s assembled a group of people who obviously don’t have a problem with doing just that. I have to say that after doing a couple of articles on BVW’s other projects, involving mermaids and vast surreal environments, I had no idea to expect.
Now, even after seeing the running on air show, I still, somehow, find something else to look at every time I look at this shoot, or see something I didn’t see before. This shoot is a real challenge to viewers, too, just figuring out the perspectives of the shots.
Benjamin’s shoot is a real menagerie of visual ideas. Try not to get as queasy as I got with some of the positions of the players, or Benjamin’s own shooting positions, hanging off the side of buildings. Just enjoy a real ride on the air, and above all, see how much fun they had doing this shoot.
I spoke with Von Wong to learn more about how the extraordinary shoot came together.
How did the Nike challenge come about? How did Nike come up with the idea “Hey, we need Benjamin Von Wong to show us how to run on air!”?
“The person who issued the challenge to me actually attended one of my photography workshops way back in 2013 in Singapore. Crazy how small the world actually is.”
Is your gravity-defying stuff going to be used for a Nike promo?
“I’m not entirely sure. So far it’s been just a collaboration but I would be open if they transformed it into an actual campaign.”
Some of those perspectives really do take a second to get used to, just to look at. How did the performers, and you, get on with looking and working with the world that way?
“None of us had ever worked off the side of a building before — so it was a completely new experience. It was honestly a lot of trail and error until we got something that everyone was happy with.
“The hardest part was just getting started, but once everyone got comfortable and put aside the fear, that’s when things started to get a lot easier.”
You got some great HD action shots at 1/1000th. Since this is Digital Journal, and we’re all in to tech in so many forms, what sort of processing software do you use?
“I used a few different (types of) software — Capture One for tethering, DxO Viewpoint for the perspective correction (in some instances) and Photoshop, for the final coloring and balance of the images.”
It also seems you assembled a cast of very brave people. How did you get the right guys to do the job?
“The social entrepreneurs were all people that Nike had supported in the past that had done social impact work. We thought it would be great to give them an opportunity to have an amazing experience and to celebrate their achievements.
“I think Nike just found themselves a new photographic guy to really deliver the message for them. I also think that every commercial photographer on Earth just had the bar raised that bit higher. This is how real art happens – Just throw the rule book away and get on with it. Well done, Benjamin. By now, I’m now more or less expecting you to show up on Mars, dancing with Mars rovers, or something. I’m prepared to wait for that, because I’m sure it’ll be worth it.”
Meanwhile – If you’re thinking of getting in to photography as a career, check out some of Benjamin’s stuff on YouTube for all the inspiration you need: