Photographer Benji Wagner woke up one day and found himself a professional with three kids living in the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon. I talked to him about how he balances work and play.
When you were 10 what did you think you’d be when you grew up? This sounds ridiculous, but whenever they asked this at school, I would write that I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic. Not so much because I understood what I was saying, you know, but more because my dad was a photographer and I wanted to be like him. There are many years between then and now where I would not have said that, but at 10 I was sure I was going to be a photographer.
How does your work as a photographer and film-maker shape the way you work from home? Because I specialize in photographing the people in the environment, getting out, having adventures, my actual shooting occurs outside the home. Of course I only shoot a fraction of the time I spend editing, organizing, and planning all of which takes place at home. I have worked from home for about 5 years. Prior to that I didn’t really have a home per se. I traveled a lot and lived out of a bag. I worked on my own no budget short narrative film for a year while I slept on my friend’s couch…It may sound intriguing, but I wasn’t very happy at the time. All that changed when I met my wife and we decided to get married. Having a family really solidified my work ethic and has taught, and continues to teach, me how to juggle family life with work life.
What would you like to change about your workspace? I work in a really cramped room in my basement. The main thing I would like to change about it would be to be to make it a big spacious modern industrial loft (with a ping pong table) that I don’t have to pay rent for.
What item on your desktop could’t you do without? I would have to go with my headphones on this one. There is nothing like turning up the volume on one of your favorite albums (I have been jamming to Bill Callahan lately) to drown out the periphery and bring your focus back to what you are trying to accomplish. That said, you would have to duct tape my arms to my chair to get my Kensington trackball mouse away from me. Once you commit to the trackball, going back to a regular mouse is infuriating.
You’ve got three children. How do you keep them from messing with you things? I went to Home Depot and bought a whole bunch of industrial shelving and plastic flip-top boxes to match. I have all my wires, camera parts, cds, etc…in these buckets which are a little to bulky and hard to open for my 3 year old to rummage through. Although she somehow manages to get into anything she can. One day she called me into her room and I found her in this clear plastic bucket. She had filled it with her aminals and pulled the lid on over herself.