Through The Looking Glass
by Maria Luci
Disney‘s recent push to be more “social” has lead them to the popular microblogging site, Tumblr. Disney found Tumblr to be the perfect venue for The Looking Glass, their newest social media project featuring photos of Disney Parks taken by a variety of photographers. For the series, Disney hired seven talented shooters with varying styles and specialties to capture what they found special or unique at the parks. One of these photographers happens to be Wonderful Machiner, Ben Van Hook. Ben had just finished filming a music video for Disney when they called him up again to see if he’d be interested in The Looking Glass project. The assignment would have him visiting the parks and photographing them in pretty much any way he pleased. His photos would then be posted daily on their Tumblr. How could Ben say no?
Ben describes his photographic style as reality with a “whimsical twist,” so he knew this project was right up his alley. “It’s rare you get an assignment from a company like Disney and they just tell you to go shoot whatever you want, ” he says. Of course, he accepted the job. Charged with photographing what he would want to “see and share,” Ben headed to Disney World to capture some of its magic. With this unprecedented freedom, Ben decided to shoot the entire project with his iPhone, wanting to give his photos more of a snapshot feel and to differentiate himself from the other photographers. He then decided that his “Looking Glass” project would be a visual study on the world of the Disney princess. He explains,
Whenever I’m at Disney, I always see scores of young girls dressed up like princesses, so the idea of exploring the moments between girls and the princesses appealed to me. I love the ways the girls are so enamored with the princesses. To show that excitement and innocence in their eyes was on my mind. I also wanted the chance to shoot some portraiture of the Disney princesses, up close and in a different way than we usually see them.
Ben shot both found situations with “real” kids along with a few models dressed up as their favorite princesses. He used no lighting and minimal gear over the shoot days, just his iPhone. He then used apps like Instagram, Hipstamatic, Snapspeed and Dynamic Light to edit the photos on his iPad. He enjoyed the freedom the device gave him to capture serendipitous moments, adding,
When I step back and look at my overall take from this job, I think it really represents who I am as a photographer, even though it was created on an iPhone. It proves that you can make emotional images with it.
Disney Parks also made this video of Ben discussing The Looking Glass project:
Disney “fell in love” with Ben’s photographs—including the look and style of his iPhone shots. Many of his photos are already up on The Looking Glass site, with more to be released each week.
View more of Ben’s work at benvanhook.com.