This week we want to focus your attention on the talent of Denise Kwong - or as many of you know her, @twistdee. She is truly gifted and draws her ideas, style and taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. Her beautiful landscapes are often made more intriguing by posing people and objects in interesting places and positions. Recently we spent some time chatting with De about how that style came about and what inspires her to continue creating. Read along! I'm Denise Kwong. In the past I have also been known as Den, Denisey K, De-ankles and D-Train, but now I prefer De. I reside in Sydney, Australia although I was born in Hong Kong. I love food. And photography. And people. And adventures. So if you also like photography, adventures with fellow humans and food then we would definitely be friends. And if you insist on driving then you'll become my instant bestie.
I have to thank Instagram for my passion for photography. It opened my world of creativity - the amount of talent out there is phenomenal! It is because of these talented people whom inspire that I constantly try to improve, experiment and create.
So did Instagram come first for you or did photography?
Instagram came first. Well, I was taking photos prior to Instagram - things like social night out mirror selfie type photos with friends and I downloaded Instagram to add filters and borders to those photos to then post on Facebook. It took about half of a year for me to be introduced to the real world of Instagram and that's when the photography really started.
So how did you first fall in love with photography?
I suppose even in those mirror selfie days I had some interest in photography. I would still try for creative angles, different focus points, different tones (how good was sepia!). So when I opened myself to the world of Instagram and saw what people could shoot and create with just their iPhone, I knew I had to try it for myself. I downloaded so many editing apps - Mextures being one of them - and just started experimenting.
It became a creative outlet for me and one that has grown and evolved. I don't shoot so much with my iPhone anymore. I now shoot with an Olympus OMD-EM5 and my edits are more subtle nowadays, though occasionally I will get a little more creative.
So the long-winded answer can be concluded with: I love how photography allows me to portray my world and the people in it in my own way. It pushes my creative boundaries and allows me to think outside the box. Oh, and I have super fun doing it!
How would you describe your style?
Eclectic and random. Wanting to try a bit of everything. I try to maintain a similar tone though even if the content varies.
How did your photography style develop?
I felt having a human element in a shot helped enhance the environment. I feel it gives scale to a place - whether it is a coastline, a forest, a large vast land - it helps show the magnitude of a location. I then decided to give these "humans" a face. So instead of them being a tiny aspect of my photo I want them to be the focus point. I then wanted my people and shots to stand out from the rest so I started thinking creatively about how to do that. Plus I've always had a fondness of dress ups.
When you use Mextures for an edit how do you typically use it?
If I feel the photo is a little flat and lacking color I’ll use Mextures. Vintage Gradients and Landscape Enhance textures are a great way to help brighten up a shot. I also like using the Grit and Grain textures to add that vintage film feel to a shot.
Do you feel like Mextures offers anything unique to your editing process?
For me it’s the gradient textures. I love how they can add depth to a photo. The ease of adding layers and controlling each of those layers as well. To be able to control the intensity of each layer is great. It's also a very easy to use app that is well laid out and I love the pre-created formulas.
What is it that most inspires your photography as you continue to grow as an artist?
The ability to think outside of the box. I can add an octopus to someone's face for a portrait, have someone walk into the water fully clothed, put a mask, headpiece or seaweed on someone's head and take photos that not only do I love, but I am encouraged to shoot them as well. The support I get from Instagram peeps humbles me. People who take the time to DM or email me to encourage my art. That is what inspires me to keep doing unusual things.
When you compose a shot, is there ever anything that you’re trying to communicate?
I wish there were, but no, nothing. I do use props to add an aspect to an image but what I use and how I use it is usually decided once I get to a location and see what's around or it may be dependent on what I have with me. The same is true with the composition of the picture. My goal is more to add a fun/interesting element rather than trying to communicate a story.
What do you most enjoy capturing in a photograph?
People in a landscape. Or people with props. Ideally people with props in a landscape. I love a human connection in my images and like how a prop can add an element of fun and quirk to an image.
Is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish with your Instagram work?
Gosh. That is an interesting question. I am enjoying what I'm doing in photography and I've received some incredible compliments and encouragement from friends and from people whom I didn't know - so that in itself I consider an accomplishment. I've also had some requests for prints of my photos so if I could perhaps set up an online shop and have regular sales from that that would be great. Otherwise, I guess I see it as a journey at the moment without a destination but I will accept whatever comes along during the ride.
I know that you’re an ambassador for ink361 and also that you’re really intentional in promoting Sydney as well. Can you tell us about that?
Yes! I love scouting through Instagram and featuring cool images that I see. So I'm lucky to be able to do that through both @ink361 and @sydneyfolk. The latter we (myself, @robmulally and @vinhphams) see as a way to bring together the Sydney scene. By that we don’t just mean photography, but also food bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, artists, creative editors and so on.
So who are the people that have inspired your work the most?
Where do I start...
First, we have @figment_hf. Ben not only opened me up to the world of cool and creative phone editing, but he has been super encouraging and always helpful. Plus his work is of true inspiration. Tones, textures and edits are always on point.
Another who always gets it right is @leahminium. The way she captures the world in her own unique perspective.
Then there's @robmulally. He’s always willing to indulge in my crazy ideas and happy to drive to wherever to get the shot. His dedication and the way that he sees the world through his lens is an inspiration to me!