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Meet the stars of Instagram

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When Instagram was named South Africa’s fastest growing social network, a surprise was who emerged as its biggest stars. However, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK reveals the real local heroes of the photo sharing network, and what makes them tick.

It may not be the biggest social network in South Africa, but Instagram is growing at a pace rarely seen in the world of online sharing. In the past year, it grew by 133 per cent in South Africa, from 1,1-million to 2,68-million users, according to the newly released SA Social media Landscape 2016 report.

Instagram started life as a photo-sharing app for iPhones, but has become a new frontier in photography and in the lives of celebrities. It is the latter who dominate the network locally, with two TV personalities, Minnie Dlamini and Bonang Matheba, each having more than half a million followers.

The next five highest-followed users are also in the entertainment game. All have one thing in common: most of the images they post are of themselves.

It is only at number eight that we find creative content being posted, and that is where we begin to see the true stars of Instagram emerge. The 8th most followed South African on Instagram, Gareth Pon (or @garethpon), is also the most followed photographer in the country, with close to a quarter million people on the lookout for his highly creative and original techniques.

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Gareth Pon’s Instagram home page

He is followed at number 10 by landscape photographer Craig Howes at just under 200 000 followers, and then a clutch of another five photographers in the top 20. Pon is also founder of an organisation of South African “Igers” – serious Instagramers – which has grown to more than seven thousand members since it began in 2013.

He himself makes a living as a globetrotting photographer, with most of his work coming off the back of his Instagram profile – and from major brands’ growing awareness of the power of the medium.

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Craig Howes’ Instagram home page

“Instagram has only started being utilised as a platform for marketing this year,” he says. “Many brands are just playing games around the space and have failed to execute Instagram as a platform for marketing. We all have a long way to go, because it’s such a new space, but if you speak to the right people and use the right perspectives, then you can use it in the most unique ways.”

His active role in building a community around Instagram is an indication, however, that he regards people as a priority.

“I believe that Instagram has a great way of showing people that they can be creative without needing to be too hard on themselves. Hundreds of smaller communities have sprung up and there are ‘instameets’ happening all the time. I just wanted to let those people find a place where they could spend time with others who have a common passion.

“The other reason I did this was to expose the beauty of South Africa to the world, in a small way. “

He pays little attention to the media personalities whose selfies and egos dominate Instagram in South Africa.

“If you engage with the platform on an international level, you very quickly realise how huge it is within the photography and creative space. All the divas, personalities and egos may have a large following, but ultimately most of them will never ever publish a beautiful image.”

Ironically but not unexpectedly, Pon is taken more seriously outside South Africa than inside. It is partly a mark of the immaturity of the platform in South Africa, but also of its rapidly increasing importance globally.

“South Africa unfortunately carries very little respect for Instagramers. I’ve worked with some reputable brands on an international level – Nike, Absolut Vodka, Mercedes, CNN, to name a few. To be honest I’ll rarely take on work in South Africa, because it consumes so much time where I could put the same time into gaining more international traction.”

Nevertheless, he remains committed to the local Instagram community.

“The initial inspiration was discovering the beauty of our cities again. As an international community we find ourselves making connections on a global scale; there are friends in every city and there is always someone who can show you the beauty of their city. I like to believe that the Igers South Africa community is the friendliest you’ll meet in the world.

“My hope is that as Instagram and the community changes, we’ll begin to see and embrace a new way of capturing South Africa. We’ll see our stories come alive through images and, as we discover our stories, we’ll see South Africa captured in a way it’s never been captured before.”

Inside the igers

The igersouthafrica Instagram account is curated by University of Cape Town postgraduate student Dean Horwitz, better known on Instagram as @mediamandean. He relaunched IgersUCT in 2014 as a space for sharing photos taken at UCT, and also helps out with IgersCapeTown.

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Dean Horwitz’s Instagram home page

“On a personal level, the biggest benefits are that you get to meet new people who share the love and passion for photography, which often translates into immediate friendships,” says Horwitz. “You get to attend instawalks and instameets, which offer opportunities to take photos of unique and different locations as well as an opportunity to meet people who you follow online. These meets and walks offer a fantastic opportunity to improve your photography, learn from other people and occasionally to work with some incredible brands.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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A screenshot of Arthur Goldstuck’s Instagram home page.

Top 7 South African photographers on Instagram

1. @garethpon (Gareth Pon) 246 000

2. @craighowes (Craig Howes)195 000

3. @levonlock (Levon Lock) 139 000

4. @unclescrooch (Ofentse Mwase) 136 000

5. @roywrench (Roy Potterill) 132 000

6. @rowaneva (Rowan Eva) 116 000

7. @ciden (Jacob K) 106 000

Hone your Instagram creativity

Gareth Pon has taken Instagram to a level of creativity that most casual users and followers never encounter, let alone produce. His greatest wish, he says, is that ordinary users learn some of these techniques, or at least attempt to take and post a creative photo. He has created a concise Instagram branding course on a learning site called Skillshare, at http://skl.sh/1MjuTs2. He also recommends two apps to edit images: Snapseed and VSCO

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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