If the average American uses 167 plastic bottles a year, in 60 years they will have used 10,000 plastic bottles.

Those same single use bottles will be around for your children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children.

That’s a lot of bottles to be running away from, for a very very long time.

Running in just about 1/3rd of the 10,000 plastic bottles we had so far.
My girlfriend & I running through 20% of the 10000 bottles collected for this project

One of my greatest strength as an artist is that I am often too naive to realize how crazy my ideas are.

I dive into them head-first, rallying volunteers around a single cause. Thanks to the help of people who are often complete strangers at the beginning of my projects, what starts off as a small idea blossoms into a full blown production.

In this case, all I knew was that plastic pollution was a boring topic and I had to find a way to make it more interesting.

Alone, I was just a photographer – but thanks to the help of amazing individuals we transformed a lifeless pile of used garbage into a message: #MermaidsHatePlastic

vonwong_plasticmermaid-1_plastic_tear
Shot on the Sony A7r-ii, 16-35mm | ISO420, 27mm, f/4.0, 1/60 with Broncolor strobes

See how we did it:

Sign our pledge: www.mermaidshateplastic.com

10,000 bottles were borrowed from Tomra, a waste management centre.

Didier, a friend and producer called up a bunch of waste management centres to pitch the project. They even offered to drop them off for us in a 50 foot truck, no strings attached.

vonwong_mermaid_bts_plasticbottle-2
Photo by Anna Tenne

Over the course of a few days, a small army of volunteers came to help de-label, un-cap and clean our 10,000 bottles.

My friends and family came to help out along with complete strangers from my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. A few even came to help after the local news got wind of my shenanigans!

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Photo: Tessa Levesque

We were also going to need a huge warehouse to experiment with different patterns.

I thought of  a friend whose wedding I shot that was in the flooring business and reached out to see if he might know someone. Turns out, he now owns his own company and loved the project so much that he offered to lend us warehouse space for the week.

360 BTS Shoot
Photo: Elie Babin

From there, all we needed was to add a mermaid.

My mom discovered Cynthia by mistake when she was hunting for a designer to help modify my sister’s wedding dress. When I saw her gorgeous silicon tails, I knew I had to work with her. She offered to design a tail specifically for this project.

vonwong_plasticmermaid-4_plastic_drain
Shot on the Sony A7r-ii, 16-35mm | ISO200, 21mm, f/4.0, 1/60 with Broncolor strobes

The camera was suspended by a professional using a system of pulleys and plywood

Guillaume Briand, a professional rigger and good friend helped rig up my camera saving me the trouble of trying to find a cherry picker.

camera
Photo: Elie Babin

And controlled via iPad, while being connected to a 52″ TV borrowed from Costco

Sony mirrorless cameras can be controlled by a free app called Play Memories. Though super handy, it would take approximately 6 seconds to take each photo.

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Photo: Teny Sarkissian

We spent a full day just to experiment with different plastic bottle configurations

Allison, a painter, spent a full day with me experimenting with different bottle configurations and we came up with the idea of designing a fake beach using flooring lent to us by Power Dekor

vonwong_plasticmermaid-2_plastic_beach
Shot on the Sony A7r-ii, 16-35mm | ISO500, 18mm, f/4.0, 1/60 with Broncolor strobes

Between each shot, hair, bodypaint and mermaid tail had to be tweaked to perfection

Tamsen, a professional makeup and hair stylist teamed up with Jean-Michel an airbrush artist to make sure our model Clara, had the proper iridescence and shine.

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Photo Mathieu Harvey (left) and Paul Kepron (Right)

Until we reached the final shot hoping that the results would ignite a conversation and encourage people to reach out and take the pledge to re-use. 

www.MermaidsHatePlastic.com

vonwong_plasticmermaid-3_plastic_ocean
Shot on the Sony A7r-ii, 16-35mm | ISO250, 21mm, f/4.0, 1/60 with Broncolor strobes

Change happens when individuals come together to fight for something they believe in. Will you join us? 

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Photo: Martin Lacasse

PS. Want these in print to spread the word? I have them available for sale, AT COST. Check it out.

Media Requests

  • Feel free to quote and publish the photos on your online publication (please credit & link back to the original). High-rez press images, BTS and more can be found in this dropbox link.
  • Part 1 and Part 2 BTS videos with more information on the project can be found on my youtube channel.
  • Commercial requests and rights: suzy@suzyjohnston.com
  • Interview requests: ben@vonwong.com

Thoughts and rambling

3 things you can do today to make a difference.

  • Buy yourself a re-usable bottle today. It doesn’t have to be expensive, look out for simple innovative young companies like Refillit!
  • Make a commitment to consider whether to accept the next piece of plastic that is offered to you, whether it’s a plastic bag, a straw or a microscopic water-bottle in your uber ride.
  • Learn a few horrible facts about plastic pollution and tell your friends over the next drink or coffee you get!

Credits:

Photography: Von Wong
Cinematography: Jordan Hamelin
Bottles: Tomra Systems ASA
Warehouse: Power Dekor
Model: Clara Cloutier
Makeup: Tamsen Rae
Bodypaint: Jean-Michel Cholett
Mermaid Tail: Cynthia Brault
Rigging: Guillaume Briand
Producer: Didier Kaade
Patterns: Allison Blue Visionary Art

Test model: Marielle Chartier Hénault

Assistants:
Jessika Chiasson, Élizabeth Lily Létourneau, Martin Perreault, Lili Yip, Anna Tenne, Yanik Chauvin, Allison Blue, Emmanuelle Néron, Laura Luu, Tout Yang, Albert B. Ross, Dominique Pepin, Paul Kepron, Teny Sarkissian, Mélanie Guertin, Tessa Levesque, Isabelle Pilette, Martin Jack Lacasse, Taline Nalbandian, Hai Nguyen, Élie Babin, Jeanette Wg, Sing Wong, Roxanne Maïté Nault, Amy Jessica Pilette, Jerry Zhu, Renaud Delaquis, Arielle Vary, Lucie Doyle, Ricky Cheng, Guildo Gagnon, Caroline lemlin, Pierre Larin, Robert Wong, Ting Huong Hua, Alex Decarie, Mylene Tat, Alex Gaipo

MORE AWESOMENESS:

  • Danny Richardson

    Fantastic concept, teamwork and execution – really beautiful (and scary) work. Love it

  • Erica

    Once again carrying the discussion to a new level in a new way…please keep raising awareness with all of your crazy ideas!! I love the fact that they are so epic!!

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  • Jeremy

    What a great project. Thanks for your continued creativity and drive to spark discussion on an important topic.

  • Kristin Michelle

    This is so amazing. As a photographer I can’t get over the thought and art and work this took. The message is so important. How can we buy prints of this? I entered your contest, but “just in case” I need to know how to get this. It’s too amazing. Good work. I hope this reaches everyone.

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  • Ahsan Raza

    This is incredible work Wong., hats off to you….! I have no words to explain. keep it man.

  • Andreas Yunis II

    Amazing

  • Karin Foreman

    Extremely beautiful. Hope the message will get through. No plastic bags for groceries was a start…

  • Behaviorbabe

    Let me know how I can help. I will share on my FB page of behavior changers (www.Facebook.com/Behaviorbabe). This year, we offered a $500 scholarship for any behavior analyst who could impact Hawai’i locally for the better. I am going “straw-less in 2017″…I’ve actually already begun. The things to think about when asking people to change their behavior is how will we allow a) same convenience and benefits without b) increasing the effort or adding an adverse component? Of course, we care about the environment, but most people do not see a straw in their coffee as the same straw that ends up in a turtle’s nostril blocks away in our oceans. I am working on developing alternatives that are practical. I believe we are capable of accommodating convenience without comprising our responsibility to our planet. Thank you for your beautiful and captivating images emphasizing this very important issue.

    • Thanks for sharing! Every bit helps 🙂 It’s definitely all about getting the content out there!

  • Hey Pascha, I would argue that more people generate waste than fight it… so it definitely is a boring topic for too many. Glad to see you fight the good fight though and wish more people thought like you!

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  • Giselle Nájera

    Small changes matter:
    -buy a big bottle of water and re use it, yes, «disposable» regular bottles can be re used a ton, you don’t even need to buy a fancy bottle
    -Reuse and recycle
    – carry a fabric bag for shopping
    – Remove straws from your life
    All of that is really easy

  • נעמה קאס רחמל

    So beautiful but sad. I want to by buy a print for my kids school, the international school of paris (ISP). they study environmental issues all year round , and it will be a great reminder for the kids of what they have learned. It is my 7 and 9 year old kids that have made me make a lot of changes in the way I use and re use products.
    I think schools are the best place to hang this picture, since kids are great educators…Please let me know how I can buy a copy for school.

    • Ohh we were not planning to sell any shots but I would love to see these printed up in a school. let’s chat further ! ben@vonwong.com

      • נעמה קאס רחמל

        would love to. Let me know when and how we can talk or chat. It is a very special school, kids from all over the world come to learn at the ISP. https://www.isparis.edu/
        The kids are involved in all kinds of social and environmental charity. I think it will be a perfect fit.
        maybe if you are in Paris you can come and talk to the kids (all studies are conducted in english) as well.

  • what happen with the bottles after shooting?

    • they went right back to where they came from – the waste management center of course ~

      • Marc Blackman

        Thanks for everything your trying to do and for showing us that we really are only limited by our imaginations

  • Miya

    I study oceanography and this hit me hard. I started as a SCUBA diver and my love of the ocean led me down the path of oceanography. My primary focus is tropical biodiversity, and this really does tie into that. Thank you for the photo shoot and for bringing awareness to the sad fate our oceans will face if we don’t do anything!

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  • Cheryl Owen

    Signed and shared awesome
    idea!!!

  • Massimiliano Finzi

    Hello Ben,
    Amazing project! 😀 😀 I really love it!

    In the last 25 years I have traveled around the world, in the places most isolated and far between africa and asia.
    (I am a diving instructor and curious man).
    the amount of plastic collected only by me under the sea or on the beach was really a lot.
    Then the problem was where to put it !!(most of the time accumulated in a small mound far from the sea).
    I worked so hard for local education with the locals, finding many difficulties (not that Europe is better … ).
    I agree with the below discussion.. is a great idea to go in the schools, I found them the best results .. It would be a nice education campaign.. the power of the children is more powerful than many adults.

  • Andrea Calà

    signed and shared, amazing work

  • Amy

    I LOVE THIS!!! Beautiful job on the whole project! How can I purchase these prints? I would love to have them to hang in my office and/or home. Thanks for caring so much about the health of our oceans.

  • Taylor

    Are you selling these photos they’re beautiful. Maybe the money could be used for fundraising or something? I want one in my house lol

  • lia

    how can I share this to tumblr?

  • Marc Blackman

    Your amazing keep up the great work and I’m going to try to be more than a photographer.

  • chimmi gyal

    Such inspiring beautiful photos

  • Antonia

    Inspiring and beautiful work- we need many people like you to drive this movement. https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-new-plastics-economy-rethinking-the-future-of-plastics

  • Eienn Jae

    Beautiful! This so cool. 🙂

  • Donna Kishbaugh

    I don’t see a “shop” button…do you sell prints?

  • Erin Crawford

    I have a traveling dress made from items that were going to the trash or Goodwill. I am encouraging sustainable fashion. It has stalled in London. Do you know anyone that might be interested in taking a photo of it there?

    • Donna Kishbaugh

      love

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  • Donna Kishbaugh

    Hey everyone! You can now buy these prints! Very cool! Thank you Von Wong!!! http://www.vonwong.com/Store/MermaidsHatePlastic

    • Stanwood

      Love the images and the campaign! Could you make it possible to order these prints without the overlaid text and logo? I think the images will speak well for themselves in my living room.

      • Donna Kishbaugh

        I agree with you. I love mine but the logo on the print makes it look more like an ad and these are just beautiful ART. I would also like to see posters of these…they are beautiful!

        • That’s exactly what they are – a social awareness campaign against plastic pollution. I didn’t create them to be appreciated, they’re there to spread a message.

          • Donna Kishbaugh

            Yes!!! And a fantastic one!!! I love mine. It’s just that you are an artist and you could do them both ways if you wanted to…generate more revenue for the cause. 🙂 I would live poster size. 🙂

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  • Katie Glass

    I would love to buy the prints, but as I’m in the UK the shipping time and cost is quite high. Do you sell the digital images at all?

  • MaryT

    I have been using reusable water bottles for decades now. I have never understood why more people don’t use them. I have wondered even more about why we moved away from reusable glass bottles into disposable plastic bottles making a wasteland or our world.

    • Tricia Kiser

      Glass bottles can be dropped and broken but plastic bottles are safe if dropped. I reuse plastic bottles, though. I keep a few at work and at home and refill them from the sink until the bottle gets too warped to use or the cap starts smelling moldy, despite being cleaned with dishwashing liquid once in a while. I don’t think plastic bottles themselves are the problem. They become a problem when people don’t dispose of them properly. Ideally, they should be recycled, not tossed outside!

  • Trần Ngọc Mai Nhi

    Thank you!
    Thank you so much for your amazing work. Using art to talk people out of using plastic bottles is very effective and interesting. Your work is really inspiring people to do more and more outstanding works like you. Respect!

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  • agriculture

    Nothing is dangerous, danger is relevant how we use it!

  • Alen

    Congratulations and Thank You , a great cause . 9 years ago, I became aware of the oceanic plastic vortexes , bought a Kangen Water (r) ionizer (www.kangenstore.biz) and have only bought 3 plastic bottles since ! Alen