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Benjamin Von Wong | Art immortalizes a creator’s passion

February 18, 2014 /

Art immortalizes a creator’s passion. With every brush stroke, we can later observe his or her intensity. In every composition, the aesthetics are designed to portray the artist’s perspective; a dream being made manifest in the connection of thought and action. And for a photographer, it is the conceptualization of an idea, documenting its design, and then bringing it to life through the lens of a camera.

Henri Cartier Bresson once realized, “I suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in a instant”, before he realigned his career from painting into photography.

The red mistress –

As is the case for many artists, fame results as a by-product of a unique style or the inherent character revealed to the world. We think of Annie Liebovitz’s perfectionism in the way she brings out her subject’s true personality to make us believe no photographer was present; but rather that we have glimpsed a person’s most intimate thoughts.

To see human ingenuity in action is to understand the inspiration of art. A true artist has an internal motivation, an unrelenting drive, and often times is journeying on an unchartered course in life. It is the sum of these experiences, more often than from formalized training, and the networking with other likeminded and talented people, that the work can be transformed into a masterpiece.

Every so often I meet an artist, whom despite his/her age, emulates the wisdom, skill and tenacity of a seasoned master. Most recently, my muse has been the incredibly talented Benjamin Von Wong.


It takes an immense amount of passion and commitment to capture the images that Ben Von Wong has been able to create. With limited experience and even less formal training, Wong has demonstrated a level of photography that can only be characterized as genius.


National Slovak Theatre –

Utilizing his background in engineering, Wong’s work reminds me of those of the late Philippe Halsman, also a former engineer, and acclaimed cover photographer for LIFE magazine during the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Wong, like Halsman did in his career, work relentlessly on creating images of perfection. Photographs that make a viewer do a double take and question whether it is real are the culmination of hours and hours of tedious attention to detail and an intense striving toward the goal of creating an epic shot.

Time –

Part of Wong’s brilliance arises from the fact that he has harnessed it from his own awareness of his psyche. He is extraordinarily self-aware. Wong recognizes his limitations as well as his strengths. He actually credits his triumphs as after- effects of his shortcomings. For example, Wong’s own awareness of his limited patience has often become a catalyst for his getting projects completed quickly, and perfectly, before moving onto anything else.

This focus helps Wong enter into a creative zone of absorption; a state where time travels quickly as what psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi iconically termed ‘flow’.

Wong reflects on his life with his family, traveling the world, attending thirteen different schools and having learned to speak 3 different languages.

These experiences broadened his awareness about multiple cultures and the world and added a global understanding of the variety of ways people live. Wong also realizes the difficulties of such a life, the constant struggle of not having a road mark, never knowing where he is going for sure. Never sure if he’s making the right decisions. He has had to reinvent himself so many times in his life and has had a tremendous amount of time to reflect on who he is and what he believes in.

 The Agonist –

 Wong’s photography is quite remarkable. He credits his creativity to the knowledge of what makes him happy, what keeps him happy to rise each morning and feel passionate about what is being sought. One distinctive attribute of an artist is the ability to see beauty, or the potential of beauty, in the everyday. As he meets new people and makes new connections, his repertoire of inspiration grows. Wong’s mind is so open to all that he is, as well as all that is everyone else.

After spending a short amount of time with Ben Von Wong, anyone would be privileged to attest to his brilliance, artistry and potential for further greatness. His mind has been able to develop in an environment which has primed him for iconic art. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this young man has set the bar for the photography industry for the years to come. Mark my words, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Von Wong’s work as he continues to bloom, expand and become more of who he is.

Salvation –

Je Revele Fine Art Photography Studio & Gallery 

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International Award Winning Photographers

Hurricane Sandy: Staten Island gets aid from all over the photography world

November 5, 2012 /

It has been one of the most devastating weeks in the history of Staten Island.  The NYC area, Long Island, the New Jersey Shore were hit hard as Sandy ravaged our communities.

I can’t begin to express my gratitude to my fellow photographers who sent us notes, text messages and left vmails to see if we were okay.  The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming but then SUDDENLY e-cards were being sent, paypal donations and checks to help with the recovery efforts.  Everyone wanted to help.  I just couldn’t believe the generosity.  Each text I received, email and message, I started to cry.  I couldn’t even utter the words to my  husband that my friend donated and then my other friend all from around the world.  It was amazing.

As I sat to write thank you notes last night, I realized that this weekend was unexpectedly wonderful thanks to their support.  I was able to help a lot of families thanks to their generosity.

Saturday I went to TJ Max and got a dozen blankets.  I got pillows, a warm coat for a child, scarves.  While I was on line to check out this grandmother and her granddaughter were talking to my daughter Gianvieve and I.  The girls were the same age.  She noticed we had nearly 2 dozen blankets. I said I was heading to the south shore.  She told me her daughter and son in law partnered with a local pizzeria to deliver hot food to families in need.  Her daughter called and said “we want to buy $1200 in pizza” and they offered 25% off.  They spent the day delivering hot pizza to families and recovery sites.  HOW AMAZING!!! I almost started crying on the check out line.

It was so cold out. As night was approaching, I filled canisters with hot cocoa.  I wanted to meet the volunteers and ask what the families needed most since many churches were already turning down donations of clothes.  I gave them all the blankets and supplies I got earlier.  They gave me a list and I jotted everything down.  As I drove away, I passed a family with 3 children pushing a shopping cart with supplies. I asked if they needed any more blankets and one teenager turned and smiled as he said, “no thank you we have everything”.

“We have everything.”  That just echoed in my mind over and over.

Sunday morning, Chris and I took the girls back to TJ max.  Saturday the volunteers told us so many families who lost their homes were sleeping on their lawns or sleeping inside the shell of their house because they had no where else to go.  IT WAS ALL THEY HAD LEFT.  They asked for pillows and blankets, flashlights and lanterns.  Many were sleeping in the dark with nowhere to go.

We got 14 more pillows.. a few more blankets.  With the upcoming NOR-EASTER scheduled on Thursday, there’s a huge effort to clear out their homes and break down sheetrock.  Families were asking for help with cleanup supplies: black garbage bags, masks because of the horrible smell, workers gloves.

We loaded our truck up with supplies and pillows galore. It was great to drive up to the Midland Beach/Oakwood area with so much for the families.   It wouldn’t have been possible without all the generosity by my photography friends.   When we pulled up cops were blocking off roads and wouldn’t let us down.  Once we explained we had supplies to help the cops cleared everything for us. I mean everything and nodded and as we pulled up to the intersection of Mill Road/Guyon.  Many of the evacuees were now sleeping in a community church that was vacant.  Although there was no power or electricity, they gathered there to be together.  At the intersection, there are 3 corners which held different items for the families.  Food on one corner, clothing/bedding on another and cleaning supplies on the last corner.

As we opened up the back of the truck these girls saw the massive stuff.   One girl said “Is that for us?” and gasped and said “THANK YOU THANK.” seeing her expression, I almost cried. Chris and I made a few trips to all the corners and people kept seeing us going back and forth emptying and this one guy yelled over “You guys rock!”.  The cleaning supplies were very costly.  One guy said “How much more of this do you have? How much did you spend?” (looking in disbelief) totally thankful.

I told them we had GENEROUS donations that really made this possible and they just all nod with these smiles that make everything ok.  As I was leaving, I asked what else they needed.  I gave one girl my cell and am staying in touch.

Chris was so glad he came with me today. He didn’t know exactly what I did yesterday, but he saw everything and was so grateful we were there.  All in all we spent 3 days and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in generous donations.  It was great.  We plan to help more this week.  Little by little, we’ll get there.

People in our community are helping each other out of the kindness of their hearts. Helping fellow Staten Islanders.  But many of the generous donations I received came from the West Coast and as far as the United Kingdom and have helped soooo so much.   Life is hard, we need to be there for each other.  People were there for me… there for my hometown.  It was overwhelming.

I have never been so proud in my life to be from Staten Island, and the love that I have seen radiate out of the people here is something I will never forget.


Natalie Licini Summer Sizzler 2012

July 15, 2012 /

Join Natalie Licini at Black River Imaging’s Summer Sizzler 2012!

As we move into the 2nd half of this year, Black River Imaging is hosting their Summer Sizzler Workshop to rejuvenate, inspire and catapult your business into the stratosphere.  It’s a 2 day immersion in Springfield, Missouri with Gene Ho and myself .  Ticket’s are just $65.  For details including schedule and hotel click here:

Gene and I will be discussing art and business and finish day one with an exciting shoot-out.   So bring your cameras and be prepared to have fun!

On day one, I will discuss: “Head First: Right and left brain strategies to build a six figure business”.  I will talk about the power of collaboration, a 360 degree approach to branding, finding your unique style, marketing and how to brand yourself with video, stills and copy.

Gene Ho will discussing “Modern Day Mona Lisa – From Posing to Promoting”.  He will discuss how to turn your photos into a masterpiece. From start to finish – learn how to take that photo that makes you look and LOOK. And then learn how to create the buzz to make your work legendary.  To learn more about best-selling author and educator Gene Ho check out his site and especially his video workshop on the using the Fisheye Lens

I hope you will join us for an unforgettable two days!


West Brighton Community Local Development Corporation Business Woman Conference 2012

June 18, 2012 /

How many of us are business owners?

If you’ve started your own business like we did, then you know it often begins with a dream. Owning a business means we either wear many hats or have many employees to handle customer service, sales, marketing, accounting and much more.  West Brighton Community Local Development Corp. (WBCLDC), has served the Staten Island Business Community since 1981, offering programming to assist new entrepreneurs and existing businesses.  The conference was founded in 2005 by Joann Regan, Business Development Director, to counsel many small-business owners and entrepreneurs at the WBCLDC’s women’s business center. All businesses need a business plan, a brand, tools for growing and expanding your business.  We need support and inspiration to differentiate our product and service and stand out in a crowded market.  How can we do this while running our business?

Join us this Wednesday at the Women’s Business Conference & Awards Mixer set at Li Greci’s Staaten on Forest Avenue.

I’ll be speaking at 2pm on the panel “How and Why They Reinvented Themselves”.  So many of you have asked questions about branding, differentiation and much more.  I hope you can join us Wednesday.  Call to reserve Your ticket today at 718-816-4775 or contact Nina at

Here’s the schedule for Wednesday:

10:00 a.m. to 11 :00 a.m. -Choose 1 of 2 sessions

A: Strategic Blueprint for Your Business:Inform participants about the benefits of a business plan and the basics of creating one. What are new trends in strategic planning and how to position your business to gain NEW business. Describe how business plans work in single owner businesses as well as large corporations and how business planning is key to inventing or reinventing one’s business. . Speakers: Robert Meyers of Northfield Bank/Commercial Loans and Nina Flores, WBCLDC, Business Development Specialist.

B: Inventing and Reinventing Your Brand: Define branding and describe how it impacts a large or small business. Describe what social media, networking, graphics, and advertising do for branding, how you can invent or reinvent your business, and the new trends in branding. Speaker: Lois Ingram & Co.

11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Networking and Vendor Session


Catherine Paulo Financial PlannersMillennium Medical BillingGuiding Light for Children & Families Inc.; Small Business Administration and NYC Small Business Services/MWBE; Business Outreach Center Network & BOC Capital and More!

11:30 a.m. to 12: 30 p.m. – Choose 1 of 2 Sessions

A:Rethink Import/Export Opportunities for Your Business: Provide participants with insights into what business opportunities exist in the greater NY area or on the internet for importing or exporting products and services. Describe growth areas, potential pitfalls, and legal issues. Talk about how taking a look at import/export opportunities may invent new business or reinvent a current business. Speaker: Manohar Bindi Soodi, V.P. at Citibank -Specialist in International Trade for over 30 years.

B: Take a Fresh Look at Your Financials: Help participants know what critical decisions are driven from financial information about their company…whether they are in start up or tune up. Describe what a small or large business person needs to know about their costs, tax liabilities, cash flow, and P&L statements, etc. Talk about how being on top of one’s financials is key to inventing a new business or reinventing a current business. Speaker: Joann Fleming, C.P.A.  of Fleming and Associates

12:30  to 1:30 Business Lunch ( Three course meal)

1:30 p.m. to 2: p.m. Networking and Vendor Session

2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Choose one of two sessions

A: Selling Yourself…Who Better than You: Inspire participants to do a more effective job of selling themselves and their product or service in a variety of transactions. Describe how one can reinvent their professional persona, asses their behaviors that get in their way of selling themselves, learn how to instill confidence in their employees. (relevant to audience i.e. bank managers, salesperson, or business professional). Speaker: Samita Loomba of Ingenious You Coaching

B: Panel on How and Why They Reinvented Themselves:Through the telling of personal stories,three business woman will share their story and inspire participants who may be thinking of doing something new or different professionally. Panel includes business woman that “reinvented” themselves. Panelists include: Photographer, Natalie Licini -Financial executives to Photography studio owner Je Revele & Instructor;Fabiola Santos-Gaerlan -former television executive to owner of several Daycare centers Honey Drop Child CareAmy DeGiulio owner of The Sugar Flower Cake Shop– former professor turned pastry chef and t.v. personality.

3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Enjoy an Interactive Session!

Laugh At Life-: An interactive presentation on the many roles women play, what motivates women to succeed as business owners, mom, caregivers, etc… inspirational and motivational presentation. . Fran Reali, owner of Better Homes and Garden/Safari Realty

4 p.m. to 5:30- Mixer in the Lounge

Joann Regan Awards Reception & Networking Mixer

Mix & Mingle, as we highlight the history of the annual Business woman Conference and present awards in memory of late Joann Regan, Director of WBCLDC’s Women’s Business Center. We have selected two women who demonstrate character in business and mentoring others;  business and/or career success and community service. Sponsor for the reception is: Richmond County Savings Bank.


Hope you can join us for a day filled with inspiration to empower local woman in business.

Natalie & Cate

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