HIGHLIGHT: CAROL GONG

HIGHLIGHT: CAROL GONG

Carol Gong (@carolgong) adores art and photography as much as anyone.  She has invested hundreds of hours using photography as a means to communicate her own emotions and even more time building and growing communities of like-minded, art-admiring folks.  Those of you unfamiliar with her personal work on Instagram are certainly familiar with at least one (and probably more) of the hubs that she has created such as @pr0ject_uno.  For a long time now, Carol has used Mextures almost religiously to enhance her editing process and to help her add an emotive quality to the images that she creates.  In an effort to learn more about her and her passions, we recently interviewed her and learned a plethora of intriguing facts.  Read on to learn along!  

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Hello!  I'm Carol Gong (@carolgong), a mobile photographer living in Hamilton, Ontario.  I'm originally from the west coast where I spent my early years in the antiques business.  During this time, I developed an eye for quality art and craftsmanship.  I believe this is what drew me towards my love for Instagram.  I was floored by the talent.  

In 2011, after I first discovered Instagram, I knew I wanted to create beautiful feature pages - a place to promote other artists and to encourage them to grow and inspire others.  That's what I've done ever since.  Every moment I can spare I'm on my phone, snapping, editing and managing my @pr0ject_uno community.  It has been my love and passion and something I am very proud of.

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HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY?

When I was in high school the first elective I ever chose was photography.  We could borrow the school cameras and develop as many photos as we liked.  I went nuts for months.  I spent my entire semester developing photos.

My husband was a professional Muay Thai fighter.  I spent years trying to capture good fight shots.  Timing is everything.  Cameras were slow.  I spent hundreds of dollars we didn't have developing a lot of blur.  My favorite shots were always before or after.  The game face.  The victory face.  And defeat.  I loved emotion.  I loved capturing it.

So many years later I got my first iPhone and I fell in love with it.  It's always been about capturing moments for me and because I always carry it I don't miss moments anymore.  I still love taking pictures of my family, but I realized that I love taking pictures of pretty much everything as long as there is a mood.  A sky, a building, it doesn't matter.  I feel that my best pictures to date are the ones I never went looking for.

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WHAT SORT OF GEAR DO YOU PHOTOGRAPH WITH AND WHAT ARE THE APPS YOU USE THE MOST?

I use only my iPhone 6 Plus to shoot.  It has become something I'm very comfortable with, but it's quite often embarrassing showing up to meets with my "gear".  So editing is always an important part to me.  All my editing is done on my phone with apps.  I rely solely on my favorite apps to create the mood and textures I envision for my final edit.  I enjoy playing with graphics and adding elements to my photos.  I use Photocrash apps and Picsart a lot to add elements if I want to get crazy.  

Before I post anything I always end with Mextures.  I've done it for so long that my photos look unfinished to me without it.  I get a lot of comments from people that they can't believe I'm not using a camera and I let them know it is all about Mextures.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?

My style?  I'd have to say eclectic.  I admire people with beautifully themed pages who have a niche, but I'm a very emotional artist.  My art is driven by my mood.  I pull inspiration from my feelings at the moment and quite often my pain.

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WHAT EXPERIENCE HAS LED YOU TO PROGRESS THE MOST IN YOUR WORK AND STYLE?

Sifting through thousands of images daily while searching for features for the @pr0ject_uno pages has helped me to hone my eye towards what I'd like to learn from the artists I feature, follow and love.

So first of all, let me say that I've learned an image has to pop from a thumbnail view.  Contrast, lighting, subject and POV are all important.

Everywhere I go I see life in pictures.  I take everyday pictures - the ones of buildings and fields and people.  Often all I need is a dose of Mextures to make it pop.  But I also love to use editing apps to depart from reality and to bring people into my dreamworld where rabbits serve tea and angels dance.

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WOULD YOU LIKE TO TALK A LITTLE ABOUT PR0JECT_UNO?

I'd love to talk about pr0ject uno.  It's my favorite thing to talk about!

Pr0ject_uno is a collaborative effort to create, share and connect great artists around the world through social media.  But it was actually an afterthought.

It all began with myself meeting Kris (@shadow.boxer) many years ago while moderating a page together.  We became instant friends and shared a dream of creating feature pages.  Kris wanted a portrait page.  I wanted a people page.  There was nothing like it at the time.  A page that featured emotion, drama, edge and soul.  And so it began.  @theportraitpr0ject and @themysterypr0ject followed by @human.edge. And we haven't stopped since.

The next page was sombresociety.  Here we fell in love with all things moody and all things Mextured.  We were so thrilled when we persuaded Nikki (@521gemini) to join us.  She was not only brilliant but also shared our visions.

So the three of us flew at building more and more pages - @sombrescapes, @sombrebeings, @sombrexplore... we were also building teams and had some of the very best talent.  Some of our pioneers, who were all catalysts in the creation of our pages, were: @m_bautista330, @sound_design, @natehill, @nak_bali_, @n.o.x.x, @kerry_fin, @brunopantone, @painting.with.light, @_legsweaver_, @lindakris10ansen, @katietiex, @_thisisolaf_, @andriana56, @resverie_, @iphotography_ch, and, of course, @sage_jonesy, who was our  partner in the creation of @m3xtures.

So pr0ject_uno began when we put all our moderators from all our pages in one big chat room to meet, network and brainstorm.  We wanted to unify our family by creating this page for the people by the people.  It starting out as simply a fun project and exploded into a true project of unity.  With the dedication and determination of such an amazingly talented family we expanded to most all social media platforms.

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This past year has been mind blowing.  We were so excited to enter into a partnership with INSPADESMAG, an online magazine created by Sergio (@creativespades), thus reaching another another level to publish all the brilliant artists within our Instagram community with full feature articles and their magnificent photos.

We've also taken a leap into the world of fashion with @theFashionPr0ject, operated by the esteemed fashion and beauty photographer, Shay Kedem Calabrese.  Shay and his team, as well as our pr0ject_uno team and INSPADESMAG have been creating content to bring the best in fashion to the forefront.

We haven't stopped there!  We are always brainstorming new ideas to make pr0ject uno appeal to all types of artists!  We have created @themusicpr0ject to meld together visual arts and sound featuring cover art, stage photography, graphic designers and we’ll hopefully integrate SoundCloud in the mix!

In addition, we started @themanpr0ject, which is just that.  It is a photography based page that brings more attention to male portraits since the Instagram market is saturated with mostly female models.

We are constantly evolving, due in part to my vision and the team's passion with Snapchat takeovers, story features, Flickr video, YouTube and Twitter.  Our main focus is to unify a wide range of aspects and genres so there is something out there for everyone.

This past July we celebrated our unity with a small but intimate meet in NYC.  It was heartwarming to meet so many of our family and friends who traveled from far and wide to finally meet.  We were generously hosted by Mark (@icapture_nyc) and Alex from @weekly_feature.  I'm hoping that this was the first of many meetings.

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HOW DO YOU USE MEXTURES TO ACHIEVE THE MOOD AND FEEL YOU WORK TO CREATE IN YOUR IMAGES?  

This one’s easy because I can honestly say that I'm not techie at all so the guest formulas make it simple for those like me.  The formulas and guest formulas are the best of the best so I always start with those.  I believe I've used most all of the artist’s formulas.  So I start playing with them until I find one I like for the photo I'm editing and I tweak it until it has the look I desire.  I love the Atmospheric textures, particularly Haunting and Somber.  Then I'll always try out the different film presets and adjust the settings a bit to try to make it my own.

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WHY IS CREATING IMPORTANT TO YOU?

I don't have a lot of confidence as an artist.  My life has been difficult and I create my art as an outlet to express myself - like a photographic diary.  My art brings me solace.

Creating communities brings me a sense of accomplishment.  It is very rewarding to me to discover new artists and be a part of making them known.  There is so much talent everywhere I turn.  So much passion and enthusiasm.  Sometimes a person just needs one lucky break in life and I'd love to be a small part in making that happen.

So why is creating important to me?  I guess it comes down to wanting to be remembered for doing something good in this world.

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COULD YOU SHARE A FEW OF THE MOST INSPIRING ACCOUNTS YOU FOLLOW?

This is a really tough question because there are so many accounts that I'm in awe of and so many people who have inspired me.

I'll have to say @sage_jonesy is hands down one of my fave artists on Instagram.  With his spectacular photography, dreamy edits, and heartfelt poetry and music, his entire vibe is magic.  Sage is Instagram's king of soul.

@hogabophotograhy, in my opinion, is one of the most innovative artists around.  I'm in love with her intricate blending of people and nature - especially the people in water series.

When I first started Instagram I ran across the account of @mr007.  He was the reason I fell in love with black and white photography and definitely my inspiration to try my hand at it.  He continues to be a trendsetter always.

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@_legsweaver_ - I just love Rebecca and her carefree modeling style.  Beautiful and talented with a style all her own.

@digbickbrandon - I've always felt drawn to Brandon's self portraits.  The way he uses his art to depict pain and suffering.  His art moves me like no others.

@nak_bali_ of course.  Always creative, always innovative, and my graphics guru.  I only wish I had half of Herri's imagination.

@iphotography_ch - Piri's landscapes always manage to take my breath away.  His photography is my inspiration to head out of the city on occasion and chase the fog.

@mmeyers76 is street perfection!  I have so many favorite street shooters, but Mike’s combination of dramatic angles and deep rich tones make all of his work jaw-dropping.

And lastly, my Instagram soulmates, Nikki (@521gemini) and Kris (@shadow.boxer).  These lovelies have not only raised the bar on Instagram with their creative genius, but their encouragement, guidance and friendship has provided me with inspiration to continue all I do.  Huge respect!

Check out more of Carol’s work right here!