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Interview with photographer Oscar Benjamin aka ‘Compassionate Wolf’

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I was inspired to interview Oscar Benjamin because of all that he has accomplished. So many friends and colleagues told me how dedicated he is at being a successful photographer and columnist. I was so glad he took the time to enjoy our annual Christmas party, where there was lots of food and drink, and we enjoyed watching him sing karaoke. It was a great time.

Before the party started, I sat down with Benjamin. Before we knew it, a half hour passed and I realized this was going to be a great article.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you do?

I can say I’m a photographer, but that would be too simple of an answer. I’m also a writer, and I’m also a radio host. This is my 10th week of my show called ‘The Hour of the Compassionate Wolf’. It’s a show where I play television music, video game music, all types of music. I also talk about my adventures in Hollywood and people I have met in the industry, the notables I’ve met and the tons of stories I have to tell.

What is the origin of the name Compassionate Wolf?

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, I was just starting out doing photography, and I listened to this station that’s still in existence but was more popular back then, called KMEL. It’s in the San Francisco the Bay Area where I used to live. So there was this show on KMEL called ‘Love Lines’ and it was on Mondays to Friday nights. Evan Luck was the DJ.

This was the beginning of hip-hop, and back then the music was high-energy. I started analyzing the show and thought…."Ok, how do people get on the show?  How do they break into the whole radio thing?"  I began to notice there was a common denominator, which was the use of pseudonyms, like false names and names they created just being on the air, air names. Evan Luck is an air name also. Needless to say, there was this character on there called The Surfer, and I started using him as an inspiration and thought…."Ok, how can I get on the show?"

So I thought,….."Ok, I consider myself a wolf, but I’m not the typical wolf". People think aggressive when they think of wolf. I’m different because I have compassion, and I came up with the name ‘Compassionate Wolf’. It’s like a contradiction, but it’s fascinating and it rolls off the tongue. I knew it would be a name that got me on the show. I started writing the station and Evan started reading the stories.

It helped because I had a background in journalism, so I wrote stories more literary compared to anyone else. So I created a niche for myself, and Evan calls me and says: “Hey, you want to be one of my characters on my show?” I said, “Of course.” I started broadcasting live with Evan at the Club Mirage in San Francisco. So that’s how Compassionate Wolf got started and I just kept the name because people recognized the name.

I started the Compassionate Wolf Production doing photography, event photography, weddings and celebrity events, red carpet events, anything and everything to do with photography.

How do you differ from other photographers and journalists?

This is not meant to be a jab to other photographers, but I noticed in my travels to L.A. and San Francisco and other parts of the country that photographers and……………………..this is difficult to say without coming across as pompous or arrogant…….but most photographers lack certain social skills and lack of sense of style and presentation. They think, well, I’m not being photographed, but I think the whole point of presentation is important especially at a red carpet event. You want to grab the attention of whatever celebrity you’re screaming at. They will focus in on you because you’re different from everybody else. I always wear a suit when I travel to conduct interviews or take photos. This is how I perceive myself, and this is how I want people to see me as well.

If I’m in a very competitive market, I have to secure whatever edge I can………with presentation, style and not fearing approaching or talking to people. I also think eye contact is very important, as well as projecting confidence. First impression always counts, and I think a lot of people forgot about that. It’s not like I’m the cat’s meow or anything like that, but if I’m trying to secure a job in a tough industry, I do think it’s very important. So I think that’s what makes me stand out from the rest.

What schooling did you take to get started in photography and writing?

It’s a funny story. I’m also an artist.  I also draw and paint, but I don’t really talk about it too much. Anyways, besides that, this goes back to junior high school when I began to study the anatomy.

I would have my friends stand there for three or four hours while I drew them, and they’re getting really tired. You can see the expression, like I need to move now. So I picked up a camera and took several pictures at different angles so they would not have to stand there and I could draw from the photos. I thought…."Wow, this is pretty fun!"  This is how I introduced myself to photography.

Then while attending Castro Valley High School, I was the editor and photographer of my high school paper. My family moved from New York were I was born, the biggest city in the U.S., to Oakland then Castro Valley.

Why do like living in Sacramento?

I like Sacramento because it’s very centrally located. If you need to run to the Bay Area, you can run there, or if you need to get to Reno, you can. Not only that, it’s the Capitol of the state, and it’s also cheaper to live here. The cost of living here is a lot more affordable. I think it’s a great place to live.

What makes you proud?

The path that I’m on in the entertainment business not relative to anyone, and yet I am breaking down the doors in a manner that is very original. I’m approaching it as a writer. I am able to access the people I want to interview. So at the end of the interview, I will talk to them off the record and establish a lot of good contacts.

Who has inspired you?

Mick Garris. I eventually want to thank him because he’s an inspiration to me.

Why did you create ‘The Hour of the Compassionate Wolf’ radio show?

It’s a means to an end and it brings me back to my roots of when I started off in radio. I always had the desire to return to radio and it’s also a way to get my name out there more. I would say I have a lot of irons in the fire that I’m juggling, but it’s an exciting way to live your life where you’re literally losing so much sleep and you’re running around so much that you’re like……"Wow, I never have a chance to breathe".

I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it’s exciting. Like last week I was in L.A. for the Video Game Awards covering that and then at your party, and then tomorrow at the TFO thing. I’ll be interviewing and photographing an aspiring actor one day and then his or her career goes up because of my photography. It’s exciting.

Who is you favorite actor or actress?

One that I have talked to when covering a story is Zachary Levi. He’s such a gentleman, and he’s fantastic. He’s a great guy and he’s a lot nicer than his character on ‘Chuck’ the TV show. He’s 10 times better, he’s very cool. He seems to enjoy the press as company and he’s just a great guy.

Whats your favorite science fiction movie?

‘Inception’ was a great film. It was more science fiction than science fantasy. Like ‘Star Wars’ is as good as they are.  It was science fantasy. We don’t have too much peer science fiction in films except for maybe the exception to ‘Prometheus’ coming out next year and of course ‘Gattaca’ was a great movie. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, that was science fiction. It may seem like I’m being a nitpicker, but it really bothers me that science fiction is not portrayed correctly on the screen.

What do you think science fiction is?

It’s basically an exploration of…..or maybe I would say, speculation of whether it’s our future or past or present. It’s taken from a hard scientific viewpoint where science is correctly researched and you extrapolate from today’s conditions to possibly the future. ‘Gattaca’ is a good example of that.

Do you read a lot of science fiction novels?

Yes, I do. I have a favorite author, Harlan Ellison, and I read a lot of horror too, like Stephen King. ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ is my favorite classic by Arthur C. Clark. It would make for such a great film. It would be hard to do, but it would be a great.

Where can people get in contact with you?

Facebook would probably be the best. All of my information is on that page.

Thank you so much Oscar AKA ‘Compassionate Wolf’ for your inspiration and sharing your story with all of us!

 

Edit by- Elisa Houg and Paul Dale Roberts
 

About the author

Judy Raderchak

Hi everyone,
I am Judy I have lived in Sacramento all my life. I love to get in depth stories about our local talented individuals. I think it's important as a writer to share others life experiences to broaden the intellect of others and to inspire others of their own greatness. Let me, get to know you!

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