In 1993 Ben was born in Chicago and in 2014 he left for a gap year in China. One year turned into three, he learned photography on the crowded streets of Beijing. He was invited to take part in an exhibition documenting the gentrification of ancient Beijing streets, the Hutongs. This exhibition turned into a larger project for Ben, The Beijingers. Ben left China in December 2017 and is currently traveling, working on commission, and building a body of work while finishing his first monograph, The Beijingers.
2018 - Top 10 Photographers in Zagreb, Croatia, 2018 - Top 50 Photographers in Croatia
I sought to observe and understand. I went to Sidi Kaouki, Morocco for three months, to photograph for a surf school there, but I spent more time photographing locals going about their daily life. Something about their life was perplexing and a curious thing to me. Coming from large cities such as Chicago and Beijing this village life was foreign to me and I sought to understand their lifestyle. Their home was desolate, but their lives were rich.
The church bell was rung many times to announce the priests will be descending to the water front. During the procession they were praying while incense was being burned in front of them. Once they reached the water, the priests blessed the water and then poured it into the pristine sea. The priest then said a prayer over the cross and proceeded to throw it into the sea. Then young men and women this year, it is typically only men, jumped into the cold water to retrieve the cross. The brave soul who retrieved the cross then kissed it and swam around while others kissed it as well. To mark the retrieval of the cross two boys lit a long flare and waved it in celebration. At the closing of the festival three boats raced out of the cove into the pristine blue sea, and then came back.
I lived in Beijing for three years there is so much life happening there that I knew nothing about. It is a diverse city that is known for things like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China, but its people are glossed over time and time again. It is not what is there, but rather who is there that makes it unique. There are individuals that fill every imaginable niche imaginable not just surviving, but thriving. These are the faces that make up Beijing and make it a diverse place.
I did not begin to document the life there until I had planned to leave. What began as an attempt to gain closure on the city that made me feel so much grew into something I believe has value to more than just me. During the experience I met curious people who asked me why I was taking pictures of them, but I have limited Chinese, so I could only tell them I am taking pictures of Beijing and the people in Beijing.