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.”

1. This picture taken by photographer Benjamin Von Wong features a woman tied down next to live sharks.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

2. Von Wong took the photos because he wanted to raise awareness about shark sanctuaries and the beauty of these misunderstood creatures.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

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.

4. Von Wong said on his website and blog that his experience with the animals was “the complete opposite” of the bloodthirsty image of sharks in popular media.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

“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.”

6. A photo shoot of this scope and caliber wasn’t easy to pull off.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

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.

8. 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.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

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.

10. 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.

11. The photo shoot has been garnering loads of attention on Reddit, and has been viewed on Imgur nearly 2.5 million times.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

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.

13. He hopes that his efforts will bring attention to sharks, which he feels are a misunderstood species.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

“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.

15. 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.

Benjamin Von Wong / vonwong.com

16. Watch a video of the photo shoot here.

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