'E-Waste' Photo Shoot Turns Forgotten Electronics Into Art

Benjamin Von Wong creates stunning photography with a message behind it, and his latest work focuses on how little old computer parts are reused. He looks to spread awareness with his images to get people to "rethink and recycle."


May 22 2019, Updated 1:01 p.m. ET

Photography has the power to evoke emotion while sending a message, and that’s exactly what Benjamin Von Wong capitalizes on in his work. His latest project focuses on computers and electronic accessories that are tossed into landfills. Giving them a second life in breathtaking imagery, he hopes to spread awareness about how important it is to recycle these products.

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According to Von Wong, 142,000 computers are thrown away in the United States every day. This contributes to a lot of electronic waste, and only 15 percent of it is recycled. That’s an extremely inefficient amount as most computers and other electronic devices are used for a handful of years before being discarded. Electronics feature many parts that can be recycled and used in some form again.

Since talking about “e-waste” is not a very exciting topic, Von Wong is spreading the message through photography. He collaborated with Dell after learning about their recycling program at the SXSW (South By Southwest) 2017 event last year in Austin, Texas. The computer company uses a closed-loop recycling process where they repurpose parts from old devices, like plastic and gold, into new equipment.

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The shoot was built at one of their recycling partners, Wistron GreenTech, in McKinney, Texas. Von Wong and over 50 volunteers helped construct the e-waste photography set in a span of 10 days. Dell gave the set 4,100 pounds of old computer parts, which is the average amount of equipment that an American wastes these days.

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“All we needed was to convince more people to recycle, so we decided to build something that people would hopefully want to talk about,” Vong Wong said in a video documenting his efforts. “Entire worlds showcasing the past, powering the future.”

Three different sets were created at the recycling center, each made out of circuit boards, keyboards, and laptops. Each of them posed dazzling landscapes and an image of a post-apocalyptic future. The human aspect of the set was a body-painted cyborg that was surrounded by all these abandoned computer parts.

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Once shooting was completed, it only took mere hours to disassemble the sets. All the old parts were given back to Dell to be recycled, and Von Wong hopes that conversation around his photos will impact people and get them to recycle old computer devices and accessories as well.

Von Wong also has a giveaway for his e-waste project. The first 1,000 people that take an image of their computer waste, post it on social media with “#RethinkRecycleRevive,” and tell him about it, he’ll send a postcard signed by everybody who contributed to the photo shoot. People can also enter a contest here to receive one of three large metallic prints of the e-waste shoot.

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