Instagram. What’s the big deal?

Video still from a shot by Brad Roberts. Courtesy Gareth Pon.


I joined Instagram in December 2010 and immediately proceeded to post horrendous snapshots of coffee cups embellished with heavy filters and bad borders.

Nice hey? Three likes! My first post dated 24 December 2010.


Why Instagram?

What appealed to me was the instant feedback on your posts, the thrill of receiving likes and followers, the ability to comment on others’ posts, the voyeurism. It was the new photo sharing community that was easier to use than Flickr, and specifically geared to mobile photography.

I stumbled about for six months, posting everything I observed, with gratuitous filters. Looking back now, those photos are cringeworthy.

Then, Instagram posted the announcement of a Worldwide Instameet. (An Instameet is an informal gathering of Instagram users – Instagramers – at an interesting location, with the sole purpose of walking about, taking pictures, and them posting them to the same photo collection via a shared hashtag). There was a meet happening in Joburg, at Gandhi Square!

That first Instawalk changed everything. I met @roywrench and @garethpon. They were weird. Roy had tattoos. Gareth dressed like a fashion student (turns out Gareth was a fashion student). I felt at home. Observing how they executed their shots during the walk, and later, how they processed them before posting them to the shared photo pool, really opened up my eyes as to what was possible with mobile photography. They shot with the end in mind.

I fell in love with Johannesburg. Her deserted Sunday streets crept into my heart. After years of suburban life, with no need to visit Town, I felt like a tourist exploring an unknown Burg. I attended almost all Joburg Instameets, exploring the city further, meeting new people.

My photography started to change – both mobile and SLR. I too shot with the end in mind. I knew how I would shoot and edit the shot to portray my vision.

Instagram took notice of the South African community, featuring several South African Instagramers and walks. I made a brief appearance on the suggested users list during which my follower count spiked to 6000. Sadly, most of those followers where “ghosts” – people who never interact, like or comment on your posts. I culled the ghosts down to 1100 real followers, since it’s not about followers for me, but rather about interaction.

Gareth established the official Instagramers South Africa community, with regional branches in the major cities. Of these, @IGersJozi is the biggest, and I am a proud constituent. Instagram spawned this commmunity of image obsessives. I have met many people. Some have become very important to me. They have become family.

What we get up to on instawalks


Worldwide Instameet 9

Gareth and Lebo (@lebolukewarm) had managed to secure access to the FNB Stadium for the ninth Worldwide Instameet, held over the weekend of 17 and 18 May 2014. The stadium would be empty, except for the Instagramers. We expected a big turnout. Over 200 people attended, making it the biggest ever meet in Africa.

Gareth approached a few Instagramers to be part of a film project he was going to execute at the Instameet. We were provided with a “Treatment” (outline of the premise of the film) and were asked to write a “statement” explaining what Instagram meant to us. I’d never been directly involved in a film before, so I was very excited about the prospect.

My statement reads:

To me it’s Group Therapy. It’s a linear timeline showing how I’ve grown as a picture taker into a picture maker. A life log showing the influence my compatriots have had on my outlook and perception.

I’ve grown to love and cherish the core group of Jozi Instagramers like family members. I miss them when we are apart. Some of them have high profile online identities, yet they’re the most meek in person. Others are more down to earth on their feeds, yet they are the strongest people I’ve met. All of them have had a profound impact on the way I make pictures.

Composition is only part of the process. Opportunity and location are important. Telling the story of people and their environment make a picture.

Through Instagram I’ve met the most amazing group of storytellers. I’m glad they’re part of my own story.”

Gareth’s film is called “Single Moments” and was released this morning. I love it!

The big deal about Instagram? Community.

I’ve grown as snapshotter of coffee cups into something else that’s more me. The community changed me. Thanks to my IGFamilia for shaping me.

Here are my shots from #WWIM9:



Status Quo

I’m happy where I am today, in terms of what I post to Instagram. There’s always room for improvement.

Has Instagram touched your life?


See also: InstragramFam – my IG community and End of Part One – Best of my early Instagrams.



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