PORTRAIT – Anna-Belle Mulder
“I definitely think in squares now, and because of Instagram I can honestly say my overall ability to read composition has improved. Because I’m always looking for the next photo and capturing images all the time, I feel it’s forced me to learn a lot faster.”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: GARETH PON
Instagram originally started as a phone camera application, but these days a lot of people upload images from their SLRs and other devices to the platform. Do you feel that people should rather stick to the availability and the capability of the particular phone they’re using, instead of bringing other devices into the equation?
Initially, Instagram was about mobile photography and it definitely still is. It’s made creativity more accessible, but with the development of tech (Wi-Fi-enabled cameras) and the yearning for higher quality images, I believe it’s progressed to a point where it’s not so much about what you shoot with, but rather about the rad moment you’re capturing. If you get too caught up in the tech side of things then you risk getting trapped by the formalities, instead of focusing on the creative process of making an image.
Taking into consideration all the effects and filters that come with the certain apps these days, is there still such a thing as a “purist” within the Instagram community?
I think the “purists” are those who only use mobile to shoot AND edit. However, I believe that purity within in an image is lost as soon as you capture it. Composition alone alters the way you read an image. All the filters and effects are really just ways of interpreting it. Instagram has made the photography space very accessible to people, and so it’s expected that millions of different interpretations will emerge.
You recently stated, “I love the fact that mobile photography has sort of flattened the level of photography, because everyone can do it now.” Do you feel that composition within art is still a relevant factor? I feel history has proven that not everyone understands composition.
In my personal opinion, composition is everything. It’s definitely the defining factor between those who “get it” and those who don’t. Because everyone can take photos, it forces photographers to up their game and seek ways to stand out in an ocean of image creators. Like with every medium out there, as it becomes easier to create, so will there be those who emerge from the crowd to pioneer whatever comes next.
Do you feel that you approach the composition of your work differently, simply because you have to fit it into a smaller viewing space? People view your work on different platforms and screens all the time, don’t they?
I definitely think in squares now, and because of Instagram I can honestly say my overall ability to read composition has improved. Because I’m always looking for the next photo and capturing images all the time, I feel it’s forced me to learn a lot faster. Everything has gone digital – it’s faster and there is a lot more to absorb. I actually think those who embrace the pace and constant change of photography nowadays will find the best ways to break the rules.
What was the breaking point for you within in the medium? What do you feel generated such big interest within your personal feed, and what keeps it growing even now?
I think the breaking point was having one of my films about a JHB Instameet featured on the Instagram blog. It really made me realise the potential of the platform and how its reach really allows anyone in the world to access a very wide and broad community. I’ve always challenged myself to change and adapt themes within my own profile, so I feel that variation and continual adaption makes the photos I share unique. I also make sure I never post a photo that you can Google
Lately you seem to be featuring a lot of “window reflection selfies” that you create through a reflection of yourself and a subject on the other side of the window. Was it a planned intervention, or did you happen to stumble upon it through the growth of your work?
I’ve always loved layers, depth, and playing with multiple surfaces and reflections. So the desire to shoot portraits pushed me to approach different ways of shooting them. Sure, there’s the typical “nice light” set-up which makes things quite dramatic, but I wanted to find a more abstract way of shooting portraits, so I decided to take photos of people through things. It was a theme that I set up for myself. I’m not sure how long it will last, but as it grows I’m still enjoying it and learning along the way.
Do you feel it necessary to plan the subject matter of your posts, or do you feel it’s sometimes better to just see where life leads you?
I always allow life to lead. Planned posts are nice, but for now, I never want my photos to feel too planned. It’s always something on the fly. If I can keep it exciting and relatively unknown, it will remain interesting and keep me interested.
What’s your daily Instagram photo upload quota or limit?
I try to upload between one and two photos a day. When I’m traveling, I upload once every three to four hours, so I guess it really depends on the circumstances. You also have to consider the expectations of your audience. If your audience expects more, then post more. If they expect less, post less.
Do you ever worry that your pet cats Pistol and Pesto (@pontekitty) might outrank you?
Haha! Never. I’ve actually stopped posting on my cats’ account now because I just want them to be able to be cats and not “Insta-celebrities”. Also, they take up way too much time and have become too big and fast for me to snap photos often enough.
Has the medium become a full-time job for you now? And if so, how much time do you dedicate to other projects?
It has! I find myself occupied with paid trips, creative consultation and creating content. But I do still dedicate a lot of time to reading, personal writing/reflection and getting creative projects out of the dust. All my “transit” time (in planes, trains, etc.) I dedicate to creating, too. This year will be interesting in how it plays out, and I believe I’ll find myself constantly surprised by new projects and challenges.
Who was involved with “Instameets” in the beginning, and what do you feel were the key elements that geared the movement towards what it’s now become?
A handful of people were there from the beginning – a great mix of individuals who found a love for their city and in rediscovering its beauty. I believe the passion to create and genuine interaction over the platform is what grew the movement. To be honest, it’s also really fun to just take photos with friends!
In one of your student films on Vimeo, called ‘Reminisce First Cut’, you told the moving story of a blind old man at a bar counter emotionally reflecting on objects from a small metal box of memorabilia. If you had to replace yourself with the old man within that role, which personal object would reflect the same emotion as the last scene in the film?
That particular film holds a lot of deep connections… When I shot it I wanted to convey the strong emotion of a bond between a lost loved one and the partner who stays behind. It’s actually quite ironic, because the man I cast for that film has since passed away, and his wife is actually the one who conveys that loss now. While making the film, I also realised that I have yet to find my own “moment” or “object” representative of that emotional bond. If I’m honest, I feel that this is something I still need to discover. In the future, I expect that this object would be something that reminds me of that first moment of “knowing” that she is “the one.” And yes, I am single :P
TO VIEW THE SHORT FILM GO – HERE
VISIT AND FOLLOW GARETH ON THE LINKS BELOW:
INSTA HITS – GARETH PONS TOP TUNES
THE NAKED AND FAMOUS
Five Score and Seven Years Ago
THE ALBUM LEAF
A Chorus of Storytellers