“To listen is risky. But not to listen is riskier.
We believe it’s time for Central Floridians to consider, think, explore and question.
To appreciate our differences, and find our commonalities.
To reach across the fence, build the bridge, open our minds. To talk.
And most of all, to listen.”
With this powerful mission statement in hand, Orlando agency &BARR approached Wonderful Machine photographer Ben Van Hook to work on a pro bono project for Florida’s NPR radio station, WMFE. The campaign, called Dare to Listen, was designed to encourage active listening and civil discourse in the Central Florida community. For Ben, an opportunity to work with a message this strong couldn’t be turned down.
Ben set out to capture some movers and shakers from around central Florida, but wanted to make sure to fully realize the essence of the locale by including some of the young, diverse people he associates with the area from living there himself. He brainstormed with creatives at the agency to put together a list of around 25 people that they hoped would have interesting backstories, or that were vocal and active in the community.
Catherine Hayes of &BARR, who coordinated the talent over a 3-day period, was a key component in the project’s success. She made sure they could set up in one place, which helped retain consistency across the photos and made for a smooth shooting process. For this piece, Ben decided to use the Phase One XF system for the first time, and being able to stay in one place with it made things that much easier on the workflow.
This was both a still image and video shoot. The crew built a set with two setups, one lit with strobe lights, and the other lit with hot lights for video. The agency edited together a video of the footage, complimented with a voice-over by the CEO of WMFE. The video was shot on a Canon C300 MKII with Cooke S4 prime lenses – a great combo. Time was limited to about 30 minutes with each person, so in order to maximize efficiency, they built all the sets within feet of each other.
The photos from the shoot were used in print ads and digital billboards all over Orlando. Large prints are in the works, and they have even discussed using some of the footage for video projections onto buildings downtown.
I think part of the reason this really resonated with me personally, and so much with the locals, was because of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub just 6 months before. The tragedy at Pulse ended up being the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. It has really brought our community together and opened up a dialogue regarding tolerance and love for our fellow men and women.
In today’s polarized political landscape, this kind of open dialogue is needed in order to keep communities together. The photos received an immensely positive response, and Ben is proud to have been a part of this powerful project. It was a dream job for him, being able to capture people opening up, being themselves, and in some cases, interacting with a camera for the first time.
See more of Ben at www.benvanhook.com.