Mark Van Wijk
“Whale, sing to me whale, sing me a song
tell me that things will never go wrong
hide me away, don’t let them stay
I’ve been swimming for a thousand years and I’ve
seen more than you can realize
but I accept that you will never understand
so I will gladly take your hand”
Whales are conscious breathers, meaning they decide when to breathe air into lungs, are warm-blooded and feed their young milk. Nursing time is more than one year for many species, which is associated with a strong bond between a mother and her young. Whales communicate with each other using lyrical sounds. They live in all of the world’s oceans. Exposure to contaminants, pollution and climate change are a threat to their population. Whales are the graceful giants of our blue earth.
I think of Mark Van Wijk and people he works with as our land giants. Marks work and passion breath air into the lungs of our society. Most of his work revolves around bringing awareness to the public about our environment problems and solutions. Together with the crew from Oceans Without Limits, Mark spent a year in the oceans documenting the effects that micro plastics have on all our lives. We met many moons ago and have done some small projects together. In this story, Love & Rockets follows Mark and Diony at work for Ocean Pledge.
Mark, tell us about your inspirations.
“Without a doubt nature is my biggest inspiration. It’s rhythm, its beauty, its complexity and wildness, everything is nature! Including us humans and even our homes and cities – yet most of us live disconnected from it today. It’s like this is us and that’s nature over there. I want to change that perception. It’s all about opening peoples eyes and shifting their perception.
And the camera technology is awesome – with so much incredible hardware and software coming out every month to take the multimedia industry further it’s such an exciting game to be in.”
How did you get to this point of doing what you love as a job?
“When I was deciding what to study in Grade 10 at school none of the normal avenues interested me in any way and I wasn’t going to just do something to earn money, so I thought about what I enjoyed doing in my own time. I had a few photo albums of pics that I’d taken from a young age and I realised that this might be something I could earn a living with and enjoy doing as well. So I went that route and studied a National Diploma of Photography at PE Tech. I remember my buddies laughing at me at school and ridiculing me because of my weird choice of study. I had no idea I’d end up in Film and TV – it was a natural progression from stills when I moved to Cape Town in 2000 and I never looked back.”
What advice would you give to help other young artists?
“When deciding to study photography in spite of being teased about it, I did think a lot about it, but I was also following my gut feeling – my intuition – my heart. That should always be your guidance when deciding whether to follow a creative or slightly different path in life. Obviously you need to work with the natural talents you notice within yourself too – but always go with your gut feeling. And then never stop! It’s not always easy at all either, but keep at it. The more you practice the luckier you get. Determination and persistence are like water that wears away rock over time. Mould your life. And have fun.
Next to nature, Music is my other biggest inspiration in life. It’s food for my soul and my creativity. It is my personal therapist and it always lifts me when I need it most or allows me to touch the low points when I’m there too – instead of hiding them away. Letting things go – good and bad – is for me a key to inner peace.”
This is my favourite poem:
“He who binds himself to a joy
does the winged life destroy
he who kisses the joy as it flies
lives in eternity’s sunrise”
What is your own favourite art work that you have done up to date?
“I don’t really think of my work as art, but I suppose it is a creative process so I reckon I can see it like that now that you mention it, thanks.
Earlier on in my career when I didn’t have any jobs coming in, I’d go out and film something and then edit it together to music and make a short film. Some of these pieces still have a special place in my heart as they were part of how I learned my own style of filmmaking and no-one really taught me this. I kind of just used what I had and made something out of it. This kept the creative process going while I didn’t have any paid work and then when the jobs did come, I felt positive about taking them on. One of my favourites is a short film I made hiking on the mountain with my boy Trigger. It was for a global film initiative called One Day on Earth where people all over the world filmed on the 11/11/2011 and then sent their footage in to the project to create an archive and document what was happening all over the world on this same day. I just really liked this concept, so I took part in it.”
Love and Rockets would love to hear your philosophy on life and art.
“I reckon that if you’re a conscious person who is aware of your environment and the world around you – you can see all of life on earth as a form of art. It’s constantly changing and the world is so beautiful if you just open your eyes to it. But nature is also hardcore and can be incredibly brutal as well – and that’s what makes it real. The cycle of life is the most creative art on earth.
I also totally love the Art that humans have created. It’s so amazing what we have achieved in this space. From the Rock Art in Khoi San caves – to the Architecture in our cities – the paintings, sculptures and of course the music. Stories and books can transport you away through your imagination too which is an amazing art. I think art is probably humanities finest achievement and in my opinion – music is number one.
… oh yes … and films.”
Tell us a little bit about your latest project “Oceans Without Limits” ?
“Early in 2018 a good friend of mine, Diony Lalieu, invited me to join an amazing NGO startup called Ocean Pledge which is all about bringing down the amount of single use plastic entering our Oceans. I’ve felt very strongly about this for ages, so saying yes was a no brainer. Two weeks later I was asked to film a documentary called Oceans Without Limits (OWL) which is a film about the impact of plastic pollution in the Western Indian Ocean. Ocean plastic awareness has definitely become my main focus over the last year. I’m totally absorbed in the story and the message we are sending out to the world. OWL really is a journey of discovery. Sailing to Madagascar, Seychelles, Maldives and Chagos islands with such an awesome crew was really an experience of a lifetime!
Although I have dreams and ambitions, I’m also following the road that life is leading me on – these projects seem to come to me. I just go with them and once I’m committed, I take it all on. Not just as a job, but as an opportunity to raise awareness that we need to care so much better for the world we live in.
I’d say that is my biggest driving factor in my documentary work. Whether its “Origins”, “Prosperity” or “Oceans”, my heart is in it! It’s such a huge blessing to be able to do work on something that one cares so greatly about: this planet – we are all individual parts of one living being – Mother Earth.”
Contact Mark Van Wijk:
Some Ideas How To Stop Using Plastic:
- Reusable shopping bags
- Opt for plastic-free packaging
- Pick up plastic anywhere you walk, on beach, while you surf, in parks, on hikes
- Reusable coffee cups
- Switch your plastic bottles and packaging to glass alternatives
- Refuse the single-use straws and cutlery
- Cut any plastic that is a ring to stop trapping birds beaks, wings, ocean animal mouths, tentacles, flippers
- Substitute Gladwrap with Wax paper to wrap food
- Buy wooden and cloth toys for children
- Decline to take free gifts at shopping tills, free packets of plastic wrapped plastic toys
- Sign petitions that will help vote for plastic free environment
Thank you Mark Van Wijk and Diony Lalieu for participating in this photoshoot with Love & Rockets
Video/Quote: Yellow Ostrich / Whale
Research: Defenders of Wildlife
Photography: Kristina Stojiljkovic