“The quote, “The best camera is the one you have with you”, rings very true to me. My phone is always with me and I’m always on the lookout for photo opportunities. Walking around with my SLR when I’m stepping out to grab lunch isn’t going to happen.”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: OCKIE FOURIE
What was the first photo you ever uploaded onto INSTAGRAM and did you immediately realise that this was a medium that you would relate to very quickly?
My first post was a heavily filtered panoramic shot of Table Mountain, taken from a friend’s apartment in Blouberg. Um, Instagram was a very new app at the time so I decided to give it a try, not thinking that it would have such a big influence on my life.
How long have you been on INSTAGRAM now and when did you find you had a sudden leap in followers?
I joined Instagram in December 2010 – the app was only 2 months old at the time. I gained a few followers bit-by-bit until September/October 2013 when I was made a suggested user by Instagram for a period of two weeks. This really spiked my follower count.
You have over 5000 followers now and have also been listed on the ORMS photographic site as one of nine great South African Instagramers – what would you say draws people to follow a certain type of personality and their images?
Yeah, I was really humbled by that ORMS article. I didn’t even know about it until you told me. Users follow accounts for various reasons. They follow celebrities who post hundreds of self-portraits day after day, they follow fashion houses, corporations and even animals who have Instagram accounts. Everyone has a diverse list of accounts in their following-list. If I like someone’s shots and I like their style, I’ll follow them. Guys like @thiswildidea and @andrewknapp only post images of their dogs. These guys make a living by travelling through the US and making money off their pets through appearances and book deals. I find that fascinating. People are attracted to unique accounts.
Would you say you were quite into photography prior to using the application or was it the satisfaction of comments and hits that encouraged you to upload more photos?
We’ve all had point-and-shoot cameras, but since I got my first iPhone in 2009, I had no real use for my compact camera. The quote, “The best camera is the one you have with you”, rings very true to me. My phone is always with me and I’m always on the lookout for photo opportunities. Walking around with my SLR when I’m stepping out to grab lunch isn’t going to happen. You can snap, edit and post a photo in under 5 minutes. That, I love. Likes and comments always encourage you to take better shots. I only post around 30-40% of the photos I take.
It seems that you were quite drawn to man holes from the beginning of your uploads and it has become quite a theme throughout your work, especially the comparisons you make with other objects like old car tyres or even tree stumps that resemble them. What is it that draws you to these commonly over-seen road landmarks?
Haha, yes, there’s definitely a pattern. The idea of composing a circular object in a square frame has a certain appeal to me. I shot my first manhole cover at a carwash on Kloof Street. I liked the colour and the composition. Since then I’ve been on the lookout for unique manhole covers wherever I go. People have been sending or tagging me in photos of manhole covers from Durban to Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and even South Korea. One day I’d like to shoot some in Japan – they’re next-level.
You’re also a keen cyclist – do you often find that you have to stop to snap at a certain subject while you’re out on the road?
If I ride by myself, yes. My riding buddies will get pissed if I had to stop every 5 minutes to take a picture. Hahaha! My phone is mounted on my handlebars and serves as an odometer and GPS, so it’s not the easiest thing to just grab and shoot. You see a lot more of the world on a bicycle than you would when driving in a car. I make mental notes of interesting street scenery, buildings, signs, etc. I’ll drive there in my car after the ride, to get the shot.
Your name @THEWORLDSYOUNGESTMAN is very unique – can you elaborate on where it stems from or was it just some random name you came up with?
It’s stems from a BBC comedy series called “The Day Today” that aired in the early 90s. It’s a parody of television and current affairs programs. The presenter says in one of the episodes: “Stay tuned – after the break we meet the world’s youngest man.” Classic!
What do you consider to be the key element that makes INSTAGRAM so popular and where do you see it heading in the future, with its current video content that seems to be becoming just as popular?
There are other apps that offer the same service, but Instagram has over 200 million active users, with over 7 million users posting daily. Companies are all using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to promote themselves. It’s just going to get bigger and better. With the introduction of a video feature, it turned a lot of people away from Vine. I use Instagram video for time-lapse clips, plus, you can add music to your video using third party apps. It also opens a window for a whole new world of creativity.
You have recently been uploading images taken from your digital camera, I have heard that some people comment that it should purely be a medium for mobile photography only. Do you have any thoughts on that and do you see a difference between the two?
It started out with uploading mobile images because it was instant. Certain DSLR cameras have changed the game by being able to upload straight to Instagram. There is nothing wrong with that. You achieve a different quality when shooting on a DSLR camera versus a mobile phone camera, be it quality or zoom capability. When I upload a DSLR image, I’ll always mention it in a hashtag or in a comment. Majority of my shots are captured on my phone using specific apps and lenses made for iPhone, achieving a photoshopped DSLR result.
Do you plan to shoot any subject matter ahead of time or is it purely imagery that presents itself to you at a certain time and place?
If I have an idea of a shot or get inspiration through other users, I’ll make a plan to scout for a specific object or location. I prefer shooting something that pops up around the corner. That’s what drives me to take photos. You can go out looking for manhole covers and come home with fascinating portraits.
Are there times where you find that it can become quite obsessive and you have to restrain yourself from snapping just one more shot?
Definitely! You’re always looking for a shot. I have missed so many opportunities, be it with people, perfect light or location. Sometimes it’s a “right place, right time” scenario, but when you’re there it’s hard to leave. We shot in Khayelitsha a while back. I could’ve stayed there the whole day, but we had to go. It was a great experience.
Which images do you find get the most reaction out of your followers and are you sometimes surprised when you get a lot of hits from a picture?
Sometimes I think that I’ve posted my best shot yet, but then it proves to be average, and vice versa. My most popular photo was an early morning shot of Lion’s Head, driving from Hout Bay. No filters were used, just a straight up shot. You can’t predict it.
Why do you think a lot of people document their food and their shoes so much?
It’s easy to shoot, isn’t it? Everyone does it. From latte art to salads – if it looks good, it will get shot. Once in a while the stars align and you find yourself standing on red bricks wearing yellow shoes, blue jeans, eating a green apple and BOOM!!!, you’ve won at Instagram. Hahaha!
Are you part of any groups in Cape Town that go on walks through the city and its surroundings or do you prefer just doing your own thing?
There are groups in every major centre of the world. With Instagram’s initiative of organised Instameets it has really brought together a community of photographers getting together in a specific part of a city to take photos for about an hour or two. I have participated in a few of them. They’re fun and you get to put a face to the Instagram handle. I’ve made some great friends through this. However, nothing beats going out on a photo-mission by yourself or with one or two friends. Imagine 50 people trying to sneak onto a rooftop.
What sort of pictures do you find attract you the most and what makes you want to follow a certain individual?
I like it when the account has a certain theme or if photos are edited in a unique way. It’s good to see that certain photographers spend a lot of time on their images. Not just the editing, but putting effort into getting the shot.
You have recently started changing to the landscape format with your images, do you see yourself moving more towards this format in the future, which format do you prefer or will you be fluctuating between the two?
If the photo works better as a landscape or portrait shot, I’ll crop it. Being OCD, I’d like to have all-square images, but it doesn’t always work out like that. You never know, perhaps I’ll create a new account that only features landscape images.
List five of your favourite individuals that you currently follow on INSTAGRAM?
INFO – THEWORLDSYOUNGESTMAN