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This Photographer Tied A Model Up In Shark-Infested Waters And It Was More Beautiful Than Scary

"Sharks get a lot of crap and don’t get nearly enough love."

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Von Wong told BuzzFeed he realized he wanted to work on a shark conservation project when he was in Fiji for a photography workshop. "Once I got thinking about a strong message I wanted to convey, a 'shark shepherd' was something that really resonated to me." he said.

He said it was the first project he has done advocating for protections for sharks. "To be honest, it's not something you hear about very much in Canada. ... This project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about them," he said.

"Similar to squirrels at a park, the white-tipped reef sharks would hover around us curiously only to scamper off if anyone got too close," he wrote. "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."

To create the shoot, Von Wong partnered with Tourism Fiji and Barefoot Collection.

The organizations were able to help Von Wong with his vision by supplying him with a full team of divers, as well as a marine biologist and shark expert named Thomas Vignaud.

In addition, the model couldn't just be any model. The woman had to be comfortable underwater, be comfortable around sharks, and be able to hold her breath for a long period of time.

Von Wong decided to go with Amber Bourke, a champion freediver who can hold her breath for more than five minutes.

Bourke had never worked with sharks before, but she wasn't scared of them. Her dress was custom designed for the photo shoot by Ali Charisma.

For each photo shoot day, Von Wong had only a couple of hours to get his shots.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

"...We only had a tiny two-hour window every day, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., where the sharks would be active and light rays visible. ... Over the course of three days, we waited over six hours," Von Wong wrote on his website.

Von Wong said the attention has been both "good and bad."

"Some are impressed with the production; other people are wondering why go through the trouble," he said.

"I'm just happy that there's a conversation going on. Sharks get a lot of crap and don't get nearly enough love," he said.

The photographer has also released a petition to advocate the creation of more shark sanctuaries. It currently has more than 1,600 signatures, and Von Wong said he hopes to reach at least 10,000 signatures.

Watch a video of the photo shoot here.

View this video on YouTube

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