marcus wong photograph of ugandan orphan

If anyone understands the true power of images, it’s WA Young Volunteer of the Year Marcus Wong

In 2017, eager to make a difference, the then 18-year-old film and graphic design student spent three months volunteering at a Ugandan orphanage. The photos and film he documented gave the orphanage much-needed exposure and support, while Marcus’ remarkable drive and generosity earned him a share in the inaugural CameraPro Explorer’s Grant

This year, Marcus revisited Africa to raise awareness and funds for yet more local charities and NGOs.

Here’s what we found out about Marcus, his inspiring work and how it’s making an impact.

What's your background in storytelling?

I first started playing with cameras as a 13-year-old. I loved watching films and TV shows and then trying to replicate what I saw with the camera. I studied film and graphic design at university and kept photography as a hobby, and just as I finished my final year at university, I found out I was the recipient of the Explorer’s Grant!

How did you find out about the Explorer's Grant?

I found out about the Explorer’s Grant through an Instagram advert! I sent through my application and never expected to be the recipient of such an awesome grant.

Can you explain your project for us?

I volunteer with NGOs in Uganda and Ethiopia that work with vulnerable people groups, children, rural farmers, and women. I volunteer by using my training in filmmaking and photography to create a library of photos and a short documentary for the organisations to use so that they can raise funds and awareness.

What's the name of the cause/s you chose to support? What made you get involved in it?

I worked with three different organisations: Buwooya Mission School, EthiopiAid Australia and Action Ethiopia. I was interested in working with these organisations as they worked with vulnerable people groups and provided long-term support by investing in their lives to create change.

What gear did you use in your project?

For this project I shot using a Sony a99ii, as it was a great hybrid camera with professional level photo and video specs. Most of the time I had a Sony 28-75mm f2.8 lens on as it was very versatile for travel work, and for interviews I used a Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens as it is such a fast and sharp lens. I often had the camera on a DJI Ronin S as a stabiliser for moving shots.

What was your biggest project challenge and how did you overcome it?

One of the challenges on this trip was keeping my setup as light and portable as possible, as I was constantly on the move. I conducted my interviews in natural light, often using a 5 in 1 diffuser, which eliminated the need to bring any lights on the trip. I had one strobe light for photography, shooting through a collapsible umbrella light modifier, which gave studio quality lighting in one backpack.

What difference has the Explorer's Grant made to you and your cause?

Through this grant, I have grown so much in my awareness of global issues of poverty and climate change, and I have grown so much in my technical skills of creating run-and-gun documentaries. 

The three organisations I worked with have expressed so much gratitude for my media work and the financial donation from CameraPro, which has allowed them to continue and improve the work they do with vulnerable people groups.

Orphans in Uganda by Marcus Wong
Orphans in Uganda by Marcus Wong
Orphans  in Uganda by Marcus Wong

How can someone donate to your cause if they want to?

All three organisations have websites that accept donations:

What's your advice for this year's Grant applicants?

Dream big, and believe in the power of good photos and videos to make a difference.

What's next on your radar, in terms of future goals?

I will continue working with organisations fighting for social justice and will go wherever the need is great. I’ve explored very distant Africa; I have some upcoming projects much closer in rural Australia (with Indigenous communities) and southeast Asia, which is exciting. I believe that telling stories through photos and films is incredibly powerful as it raises awareness through such an immersive medium. For people to care for a cause, they first have to see.

Marcus Wong photograph

Photos supplied by Marcus Wong - check out his website and Instagram for more.

Applications for the 2019 CameraPro Explorer’s Grant are open until 30 September 2019. Find out more.