Benjamin Von Wong Transforms Office Workers Into Ripped Athletes

Curators’ Corner

Benjamin Von Wong Transforms Office Workers Into Ripped Athletes


When it comes to workplace stereotypes, office laborers are undoubtedly known more for the girth of their waistlines than for their bulging biceps. Blame it on the sedentary workstation environment or the never-ending supply of donuts in the break room; 9-5 desk workers are the last people on Earth you would expect to double as fitness models. But when California-based photo sharing company SmugMug commissioned Benjamin Von Wong to take “some black and white portraits of our employees doing something sporty,” the clever photographer went above and beyond, transforming everyday people into pillars of physical fitness.

Faced with a measly $20 budget and a tight deadline, Von Wong relied on sheer creativity to spice up the portraits. He found his special ingredient in the form of a DIY rain machine, made with PVC pipes, plumber’s glue and copper sprinkler heads. After a successful test run, Von Wong strategically added four lights to create edgy and striking photographs of his subjects lifting dumbbells, carrying chains and lugging tires, all the while shrouded in a makeshift downpour.

To SmugMug’s delight, the photographs turned out fierce – balding weekend warriors transformed into chiseled Adonises and retirement-age Grandmothers resembled triathlon super stars. As Von Wong boasted in an article for PetaPixel, not a single subject was Photoshopped.

Hollywood-level lighting makes a huge difference. Once set up properly, anyone can look absolutely phenomenal straight out of camera. Muscles beautifully defined, faces perfectly lit. No tummy tucking or Photoshop funny business needed, only the small tweaks: light, contrast & color.”

Von Wong, currently based in Montreal, says the project’s greatest reward is its ability to inspire “Average Joes” and “Plain Janes” into believing in themselves and their bodies. Anyone, he says, even latte-sipping desk dwellers, can look great in front of the camera.

I really love working every day people because that’s where the photos become even more magical. You expect photos to come out amazing when you are working with professional models and dancers, but when you can show off these incredible photos, and tell the viewer that these aren’t models, they are normal people like you and me, it makes the photos that much more special and magical. I take great satisfaction in making the ordinary extraordinary, and not only does that apply to scenes, but that also applies to people too.”

For more information about this project or to learn more about Benjamin Von Wong, check out his blog and visit his Facebook page.

Benjamin Von Wong's picture of chains

Benjamin Von Wong Bike Riding

Benjamin Von Wong Brett Barbell Press

Images: Benjamin Von Wong