One year ago, a boy by the name of Tyler Grace left me a comment on my fan page that made me realize for the first time that as a “public figure“, I had the power to change peoples lives. Screen Shot 2014 08 03 at 12 30 00 PM – Fast forward to February of this year, I received an email from his sister Bianca telling me that his 21st birthday was coming up and that there was nothing he wanted more in the world than to meet me for his 21st birthday. Although they couldn’t afford to fly me in, a 2 minute personalized video would mean the world to him. At the time, I happened to be touring in Singapore and I thought to myself: When am I ever going to be this close to Australia again? Why just make a video when it was within my power to make an impossible dream come true? I rescheduled my return flights, bought a ticket for myself to small town Albury, Australia and had Bianca prepare a box with a bow that I could fit in. Check out his expression, it’s priceless.

How it came together

The ticket was the easy part. Though I had already bought the ticket, I hadn’t quite figured out how I was going to actually pay for it. The plan was to give a conference and use the funds raised from that to help pay for the travel but since the entire trip had to be a secret, I couldn’t actually post anything online without Tyler finding out!! I proceeded to make a secret group on facebook to try and softly spread the word through a couple dedicated, motivated and passionate fans. In the meantime, conversations with Bianca kept going in between planning my underwater shoot in Bali and fire shoot in Singapore. I didn’t want to just show up at his house and grab a coffee with him, I wanted to do something memorable for him and together we began to discuss what Tyler was physically able to do and what he might enjoy doing; A photoshoot at a lake depicting his struggles in life and relationship with his sister, a canoe trip (he hadn’t been on a canoe since he was 8!), a rodeo (never been to one, and he’s Australian!), the Von Wong conference (where he would be invited to share his story) and last but not least the chance to be on the set of an actual “Epic Von Wong photoshoot” in an abandoned brickworks with models, hair and makeup where he would be invited to take shots of his own. Parallel to all this, I was hoping to have some way of documenting the adventure as I thought it would make a great memory. As a result, I hit up my friend Sam and his wife Silvia who had just accompanied me to Asia on my Cheap Camera challenge with DigitalREV and asked if they would be interested in coming along and help me document the journey. Despite the fact that none of them were videographers and that there was zero budget, they both enthusiastically hoped on board to contribute to the cause and use the surprise as an excuse to visit Australia for the first time. All that was left was to make our way to the right airport without slipping up. 2014 03 05 11 18 51 We got into the local newspaper! Read article here.

Thoughts and ramblings

For the longest time I’ve been wanting to do a project with the Make a Wish foundation – the idea of a terminal child getting their wish granted just seemed like something extremely beautiful to capture but unfortunately things just never quite panned out. When the email from Bianca came through, it seemed like too beautiful of a project to pass on by. I think it is projects like these that truly give meaning to what we do as creatives. What use is all the fame and popularity that is accumulated over a lifetime if it can’t be put to use and change the world for the better? The projects for a terminal lady last September, my Eliza fundraising video that raised over a million dollars, and now this one are some of my proudest accomplishments. This photo of Tyler and his sister struggling through the mud towards a better and brighter future is something I think all of us can relate to in some way, shape or form. We all go through hardship, pain and suffering at some point in our life and if there is some way we can reach out and help at little or no cost… should we not try? VON 2297 Edit I’ve always said that a photo consists of two stories: The photos themselves and the process in how they were created. In this series of images, the photos themselves tell a simple fashion story featuring a couple beautifully styled models (thank you Aster for the styling!) in a dirty grungy location. VON 2680 Edit VON 2707 Edit And while the photos are pretty, the story on how they came about is so much more exciting. The entire shoot was planned in secret through a private facebook group, scouting was done by helpful fans, and all the models, makeup and hairstylists were found by another fan I never met before,Deep Golder, who had spent weeks slowly but quietly accumulating potential individuals that would be interested in shooting with me “in the near future”. VON 2745 Edit While all this was happening, Bianca made a fake account to participate in conversations and monitored Tyler’s facebook to make sure that he didn’t suspect anything. Inquiring discretely about what Tyler’s dream shoot would potentially be, we tried to style things accordingly so that he would be offered the opportunity to shoot on a set larger than he’d ever done before. VON 2894 Edit And then somehow, magically, everything finally coming together for us to actually have a successful photoshoot where I had the chance to demonstrate to Tyler how I worked… and for him to have a chance at shooting some shots of his own. VON 2978 Edit

Final comments

One of the great things about building a brand on inspiration, is that I am supported by companies that are equally passionate and motivated that help me make what I do possible. I reached out to a couple of these sponsors, asking them to also sponsor some gifts of their own for Tyler’s 21st and to my great pleasure, I had some great responses:

At the end of the day though, I personally declare that the best gift he received was a pink (or possibly purple) unicorn that I found for him at the Kayabram rodeo to remember me by. 2014 03 11 22 15 55 Curious to know what things were like from Tyler’s point of view? Read his blog here and give him a like on facebook!

  • Part 1: Day 1 – The Surprise
  • Part 2 – Day 2 and 3 – Newspaper articles, a photo shoot and more
  • Part 3 – Searching for wild kangaroos and the rodeo
  • Part 4 – Canoeing, Fetish Clubs and the Conference
  • Part 5 – To come….


    1) “How does one get sponsored?” Stop thinking about what you want – but think about what you can give. What do you have to give? Why is it in someone’s best interest to support you? What do they have to gain? Nothing in life is free. Remember that and it’ll be a step in the right direction. 2) “When will you come visit me?” The simple answer is: When I can. Hire me, get me hired, or wait until my adventures bring me to your neighbourhood! Alternatively, feel free to inspire me!e First and foremost, I have a career to build so that I can keep delivering inspirational adventures to you guys! ^^ If you’re wondering what my travel plans are in the near future, download my Von Wong app and get notified when I’m close by! Next stops are Toronto, San Francisco and Cologne, Germany!



  • Wes Jones


  • Ben, you`re a big inspiration for me since the beginning. Doing what you did is exactly what I`m always talking about.

    Just wanted to tell you that I like you and your style a lot, not just as an photographer but also as a person.
    You`re just freaking awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hope to finally see you one day.

    Akira from Germany

    • Thanks Akira! I’ll be in Cologne for Photokina if you want to say hi ๐Ÿ™‚

      • You don`t know how much I would love to talk to you. I`m afraid I`m traveling in Taiwan doing a personal photo project during photokina-time this year. but it`s okay `cause I think we will definetly meet sooner or later. maybe in 2 years or so. ๐Ÿ™‚
        Stay awesome!

  • Tonya

    I just saw this on the “Right This Minute” TV show. I love your art. Have you thought about taking pictures at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada? You creative abilities would be inspiring. I am now a fan.

  • Kittie Keetyee

    Truly, Ben, you’re not a man with only inspiration, but you’re a man who sees and cares every single things in your life. I’m glad that I’ve known you and your production, and I’m just like Tyler Grace, who got inspired by your works and your passion. I’m a food science and nutrition graduate, however I have been interested in photography for quite some time. Your story inspires me to go for what I really want. Keep it up Ben with your mission, continue to create miracles and inspire people around you! Nice to know you! ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Thank you kittie!! No reason you can’t do photography on the side! best of luck in your journey

  • Steve Teoh

    Not many of us are willing to find time to inspire others, and Ben I am inspired by your trip to meet up with Tyler. He in turn inspires others and so on. The question I am asking myself now is how I can do the same for those in need. Keep it up Ben and thanks for sharing!

  • yamen

    the story begin with a video on youtube than a big love to photography came now over 3 year of learning and lot of learning but with no gear i had to borrow a gear every time i want to shoot coz they are too expensive in my country. lot of money but my passion will survive despite everything it’s just like a fire… and the video was yours Ben ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Akshay S

    i dont have a chronic disease.. i dont have a studio of my own… i dont visit the hospital now and then… i dont have any sad stories thats worth mentioning…but u have inspired me a lot…u r the best.. i love u..plz turn up at my door..

  • Zaynab Quadri

    Hello Mr Von Wong,

    I am Zaynabtyty from Nigeria, i actually followed you when i read your story on BuzzFeed (the shark photoshoot)

    You inspire me a lot, i take pictures of books and hopefully someday you would visit Nigeria (which i know is not possible) but a girl can dream yeah?

    Keep doing you and keep inspiring people.