Unlike just seeing 'pretty pictures' of fantasy creatures and objects created out of trash to promote awareness of waste and environmental danger, beloved fairy tales access the emotions of those who have loved the tales. The many versions of the fairy tale in books and film (and, yes, Disney) have already stirred the imaginations of people, especially young people, around the globe. They relate to the plight of The Little Mermaid - her wish to be part of the world, to not be segregated, to have a voice and so much more, and once connected, they remain so.
After tale familiarity, it only takes an image alluding to a beloved fairy tale character for an important message such as this one to get through, and that's what photographer and visual artist, Benjamin Von Wong, harnesses very effectively.
Frankly we encourage using fairy tales and fairy tale imagery to galvanize people to action here, as the urgency of this issue is such that marine biologists and other scientists around the world are now predicting that bird and marine life will be decimated within three decades because of plastic in our oceans!
Discussing the problem in Australia alone, The Boomerang Alliance (Australia's prime campaign group on waste and recycling) lists multiple, serious issues to the eco-system and wildlife, but if that's not reason enough to take the issue seriously, they add that "every time you eat seafood you’re potentially ingesting these same indestructible plastic particles into your own body".
To raise awareness of the ocean’s urgent plight, Benjamin Von Wong, a renowned Canadian conceptual photographer and conservationist, has developed an epic visual movement called #mermaidshateplastic, which he hopes will draw the world’s attention to the grave threat plastic waste poses to the world’s oceans.
Using his signature hyper-realistic art style, Von Wong photographed models transformed into ‘mermaids’ ‘swimming’ amid 10,000 discarded plastic bottles he used to represent the sea. The ambitious shoot took place in a Montreal warehouse where Von Wong staged each of his scenes and photographed from above.
Currently in Australia, Von Wong spoke to news.com.au about the #mermaidshateplastic campaign, which launched globally last week.
“To me, the ocean is … like space but on our own planet and it’s something I find really fascinating,” Von Wong says. “But, virtually every single piece of plastic that has ever been created still exists on the planet today and if we do nothing, by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in the sea and that’s terrifying.”
As an artist, Von Wong says that while he isn’t able to find the tangible solution to this problem, he’s chosen to apply his creative skills to draw the world’s attention to the ocean’s urgent plight. “I’m not a plastics engineer, I can’t create a new material, I can’t impact policy but what I can do, hopefully, is drive awareness,” Von Wong explains.
Take a look at the creation process, which, by the way, uses collected beach and recycling waste for materials: