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Sea Shepherds
Enjoy this blog extract & video from international artist & photographer Benjamin Von Wong.
Model Tied Down with Sharks to Create Surreal Shark Shepherd
'Fiji is known to ecotourists around the world for its world-class shark dives.

As a photographer looking to create meaningful work, this was the perfect opportunity for me to create a series of images that would promote their beauty while advocating for their protection.

Sharks are almost always depicted as menacing and terrifying, yet it is humans that are responsible for killing them in the millions just to make soup. I wanted to create a series of images that would help break those stereotypes and show that it is possible for us to co-exist together in perfect harmony.
Finding a dive shop that would be interested in helping me transform my vision into reality was a huge challenge. Not only did they have to be available, they also had to believe that creating a shot like this would be possible.  Although there was some interest, it wasn’t until a few days after I landed in Fiji that things started to fall into place.

Through the help of a couple supporters, Ropate & Konrad, along with a half-dozen emails and phone calls, I was finally introduced to the right people: Tourism Fiji and the Barefoot Collection. Despite the tight time frame, they would provide us with a full team of support divers as well as their in-house marine biologist & shark expert Thomas Vignaud. Just like that, we found ourselves creating a shark shepherd to promote the creation of shark conservations.
One problem: I didn’t know anyone in Fiji that would help me tie down a model while sharks swam around.

For each and every shot we would weigh down Amber Bourke, our champion freediver, onto the perfectly lit rock formation where light was falling. The ethereal white dress, designed specifically for this shoot by Ali Charisma, would have to be carefully placed so that it would flow beautifully into the image. When all was finally in position, we would hand over the three-piece plastic shepherds crook to Amber and begin the wait. Over the course of three days, we waited over six hours.

Hoping to get the sharks in perfect position, our entire team tried their best to hug the walls and not make any sudden movements to not startle the timid creatures. Once one of them got deep enough into the cave and we thought there was a good chance of us capturing a shot, Amber would take a deep breath, rip off her mask and strike a couple of poses for as long as she could.
Having the privilege to dive with sharks, learn more about them and showcase their unique beauty, was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. Although Sharks are currently on the road to extinction, it is still possible to find pockets of magic like these.
Shooting a model with sharks was even more complicated than shooting models in an underwater shipwreck. In addition to the standard complications of shooting underwater – Limited oxygen, complex communication, specialized equipment and experienced divers – we only had a tiny two-hour window every day, between 11 AM and 1 PM, where the sharks would be active and light rays visible.
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