We had the pleasure of chatting with David Leong (@d.leong), as he shares his inspiring photography journey with us.
David started taking photos with his iPhone in 2012. He then started approaching Instagram more seriously and followed photographers he found inspiring. Through Instagram, he discovered like-minded people who create great content and photographs, and decided to be a part of that community.
He soon learned that there was something bigger going on — greater than having a huge following and user engagements.
“I thought that it would be a way for me to push myself to be more creative and to find more fulfillment and happiness in the content that I created”.
Ever since then, he feels that he has improved significantly and now has the ability to see and discover things through a different perspective.
“I thought that it would be a way for me to push myself to be more creative and to find more fulfillment and happiness in the content that I created.”
OOWA: How do you engage your followers emotionally with your photos?
David: For me, Instagram has been a platform for self-expression, as I’ve gone through many different emotional stages over the past few years. Instagram has been a place for me to let everything out, a medium in the form of pictures and words, the combination of which is incredibly powerful. Even if what is going on in my life is not apparent, I know what I’m going through, and that I express that emotion through the image as well as the words I use.
I think Instagram is a great platform to be yourself. I try not to do or post things that I know will get me “Likes” or do things just because they are trendy — I try to stay true to myself. I post content that I like in the style that I like. Of course, I could always change hopefully not because of peer pressure but because I am changing as a person, and therefore what I create changes with me.
David: I really like taking portraits; that’s my favorite type of photo to take. I think there is so much emotion conveyed with having a person in a photo as opposed to the same photo but without the person. This is especially true with the people that I know and I am close to, because I feel a stronger connection to them while taking pictures of them.
Sometimes I take pictures of strangers, like in street photography, but if it’s someone that I know or someone that I have an emotional connection with, then the photo becomes more meaningful for me.
I don’t reach out to people or models just because I want to add another pretty face to my feed. If I do reach out to someone new, I try to talk to them, and get to know them as a friend so that the shoot is more enjoyable; we’re both having more fun, so that emotion comes out through the photos. It’s really about adding the human element that gives photographs more depth, meaning and emotion.
OOWA: Since you’re a musician too, is there a crossover between music and photography for you, or is there something that you do in music that you also do in photography?
David: A lot of times I’d be really feeling a particular song and I’ll find a way to incorporate those lyrics into my photos. It’s great when a particular lyric resonates with what I’m thinking, feeling, or what I’m going through, and I find a way to make that relate to my photos. When that all comes together it’s like the perfect marriage.
Sometimes I’ll have some lyrics in mind that I really like but don’t have a photo to go with it yet, so I’ll wait until something comes along. Or the opposite: I’ll have a photo ready to go but no lyrics in mind. In that situation, I would go through all my songs trying to find something that I can put. Sometimes it’s really last minute but other times it’s really well thought out. I’m always trying to discover new music, and thus have more ideas.
OOWA: Do you plan your shoots? Or are they always taken in the moment?
David: Well I feel like everything on Instagram nowadays (or at least everything that has any degree of thought put in at all) are what people used to call #latergrams, as in never in the moment, always taken in advance.
Sometimes I am able to pre-populate the feed and captions beforehand. For the past few months I’ve been travelling a lot and I’ve been populating the future feed with photos of my travels. If I am not travelling, then it’ll be photos that I’ve taken recently or something from way back.
OOWA: Which part of this journey have you enjoyed the most?
David: It’s been fun because all of my photography skills are self-taught, and I can see how it grows, how it changes, and how it improves, just from getting out there and shooting. It’s been a lot of trials and error. Discovering what I like, and also the friendship aspect from shooting with others.
I’ve met a number of good friends through both Instagram and photography. Some of the people that I am closest with now I met through taking photos; now we get together often and it is something that we all enjoy. It’s fun to spend time with people that share your interests.
OOWA: Do you have people that you look up to?
David: Oh yeah, June Kim, she’s one of the greatest. She’s very artistic.
She doesn’t post very often but whenever she does, it’s so profoundly awe-inspiring.
People like Chris Connolly who I’ve never met but is here (San Francisco), and Evan Sheehan from Chicago whom I’ve met, I’ve met June Kim too. And I follow people from all over the country and the world, like New York, Japan, Denmark, Hong Kong, Greece, etc.
Seeing these places through their lenses and how they capture it is really cool and I hope that some days I’d be able to travel to these places myself.
David Leong is a multifaceted photographer, musician, and urbanist based in San Francisco, CA. His work has been featured by various companies including VSCO, Chicago Tribune, Looks Like Film, Popular Mechanics, Reality SF, The Verge, Gizmodo, 7×7, Business Insider, Fast Company, and The Everygirl.
Follow David at @d.leong for more.