January 11th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 2
12-year old Josiah Launstein, more than you expect
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald Contributor Photo
Josiah (left) with John, his father, overlooking their motel rooftop high above in the mountains of Thailand.
Pass Herald Reporter
Twelve-year-old Josiah, the youngest of the Launstein family bunch, received the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Thailand on a two-week trip sponsored by Nikon to star in a promo video clip that profiles his craft and his passion: conservation photography.

The two-minute “Neighbours: I Am More Than You Expect” clip opens in the busy Thailand city of Chiang Mai, but changes pace as we travel with Josiah to the countryside, following his journey through lush green foliage and rocky waterfalls doing what he does best – capturing moments, photographing wildlife and telling their stories.

Throughout the clip, an adult voice narrates a touching story attributed to Josiah. “Through my lens, I don’t see animals,” says the voice-over. “I see friends – my neighbours – who share their homes with me. But because of us, they’re disappearing. And if they go, so will we.”

A lasting impact is made when we see then-11-year-old Josiah at the very end of the video holding a camera, and we realize that making an impact and being creative can happen at any age. “That was the idea,” says Josiah’s father, John, who accompanied his son on the trip. “They kept an adult voice until the reveal, it would be even more surprising.”

The video, released on Dec. 6, 2016, was produced by Malaysia-based Reservoir Productions and has already reached over 1.3 million views on YouTube.
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A longer behind-the-scenes clip was also released with commentary from John, Josiah and director Quek Shio Chuan.

“More Than You Expect is a film about the power of photography and how it can change conversations through stories,” says Chuan. “This film is carefully crafted to deliver a message in a thought-provoking way, whether it’s Josiah’s personal mission, the way the photographs are taken, or even the surprise at the very end.”

The opportunity came as an unexpected surprise to the Launsteins. John had received an email from a Reservoir Productions representative at the end of July, right around the time the Launsteins were preparing to open their gallery in Blairmore. “The week that we were building up for our grand opening, I got an email in my inbox that was a few sentences long and it said, ‘Hi, my name is Debbie. I work for a film production company in Kuala Lumpur and Nikon wants to do a film about your son Josiah. We need to know his current height and weight and we need full-body pictures of him as soon as possible.’ And I went, ‘No’.”

The email naturally set off alarm bells for Josiah’s parents, but after doing their due diligence, John and his wife Melanie were convinced that the offer was legitimate. “[Josiah] got a letter from Nikon’s vice-president, a guy that I’m aware of from the industry. That’s a pretty cool letter for his scrapbook, for sure,” says a beaming John.

“With our upcoming campaign, we are looking to feature a photographer who wants to make a difference in the world with their photographs,” said the letter, signed by Hiroaki Ono, general manager of international marketing with Nikon Singapore. “We are truly honoured that you have chosen Nikon to hone your craft and we believe that your story would be the perfect example to help people see the power of photography and how it can help open new worlds and conversations.”
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Apparently, Reservoir Productions had been keeping a close eye on Josiah’s work, and it’s easy to see what had impressed them. Josiah was named Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year in 2014, with another seven of his images selected as finalists in the competition. In October 2015, not one but two of Josiah’s photographs were finalists for the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year. In fact, Josiah’s photographs often end up as finalists in every competition he enters.

Fast forward about three weeks from John receiving the email, and both Launstein boys step off a plane into plus-30 heat and 100 percent humidity after a grueling 47-hour-trip where almost everything you can imagine going wrong went wrong. They missed flights, endured severe wind shear on the plane, had problems at security, and lost their baggage.

“When we landed in Thailand, our bags were in Detroit,” says John. “That is an inconvenience for any traveller, but [Reservoir Productions] had laid out exactly what they wanted [Josiah] to wear for all of the scenes. He’s climbing waterfalls and hiking in the heat and rainforest, so we had geared him up specifically for the technical need and the film wardrobe, and that’s all in Detroit.”

Despite a rocky start, this was the first of a 13-day filming experience that Josiah will remember for a lifetime.

“We got to the set on day one and there was 56 people on set,” says John. “That’s when we realized that it was a little bigger deal than what we had anticipated.”
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Despite being a seasoned photographer familiar with “roughing it” and working in harsh outdoor environments, there were a lot of firsts for Josiah on this trip. His first time in a tropical climate, first time having to take anti-malaria medication, first time photographing a tarantula. And his first taste of stardom.

“He was literally the center. It’s not a film where he’s just one of the actors; he’s the story,” says John. “So they had a whole wardrobe dedicated to him. They did makeup for a couple of scenes to kill the sweat. He had wet towels in a cooler, so whenever he wasn’t filming, he’d come running and they’d wrap wet towels around him.”

It wasn’t all glam for Josiah, though. For the next two weeks, the Launstein boys started pre-sunrise and ended post-sunset in an intensive 13 days of non-stop filming and one day in the production studio.

“We came home from our trip to Thailand in desperate need of a vacation,” laughs John. “Each day was different in terms of what was being filmed. We did two, three or four scenes in, usually, at least two or three locations. We had three different bases of operation, two in the north and one in Bangkok, all in Thailand.”

Out of all the black-faced gibbons, tarantulas, Buffy fish owls, geckos, squirrels, moths and much more that Josiah captured in front of the lens, the elephants were hands-down his favorite to photograph.

“They’re so different. I haven’t photographed those before,” he says.

Until Nikon decides on the campaign and course they want to take with the footage, Josiah’s photos that he took in Thailand are under strict lock and key. The Launsteins are eagerly waiting for a thumbs-up from Nikon for the clearance to share Josiah’s photos with the public and his following. In the meantime, a director’s cut will soon be released with Josiah’s original voice-over narrating the story.

Josiah’s hoping his next adventures take him to Africa or Australia. “I know I’m picking a hot place again,” he says with a look of resignation. “I like kangaroos.”

You can follow Josiah’s journey on the Launstein blog at www.launsteinimagery.com, or visit their gallery main street Blairmore to see more of the family’s award-winning work.
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January 11th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 2
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