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Gareth Pon- Africa's Instagram virtuoso

Nov 10 2015 14:58
Mandy de Waal

Africa’s top Instagrammer, Gareth Pon, dreams of going into space, but until that happens, he’s firmly grounded by a career that sees him travel the world creating out-of-this world photographs and videos. Ask Pon what he does and he’ll tell you he tells stories using pixels.

Most of those pixels are on Instagram where, as of 6 August, the mobile photographer, videographer and creative consultant has over 244 000 followers.

“Instagram has made international reach and exposure a lot more possible,” says Pon of the free and easy-to-use social media service that enables people to snap photographs and take video clips with a mobile device and share them online. The exposure on Instagram has given him, and many others around the world, the opportunity to grow an audience and potential clients in a unique way, he says.

“I can honestly say that prior to Instagram I would not have dreamt of doing what I am doing now. It’s changed my perception of the photography and social media industry as a whole,” the visual storyteller explains.

“I’ve been able to collaborate and work with brands locally and internationally purely because I was given the opportunity to showcase my work via a very modern and untraditional medium.”

Created in 2010 by US coder and entrepreneur Kevin Systrom and Brazilian software engineer and entrepreneur Mike Krieger, Instagram is unique in that the images and photographs shared are a very specific square format.

A year after launching the service, Instagram already had more than a million users. In April 2012, Facebook acquired the image sharing site for $1bn. Today Instagram has a community of well over 300m.

The numbers give an indication of Instagram’s massive reach, but how has Pon managed to craft a career that takes him around the globe almost exclusively off the back of social media?

“Instagram is widely based on curation of content, community and having a unique story to tell,” says Pon. “Anyone could have done the same before I did; I’d like to believe that I was in the right place to be able to offer these things at the right time and hopefully I’m still pioneering some ideas in the space.”

Pon adds: “I just took the right opportunities and pursued two things I was passionate about – people and photography. I also founded the South African Instagrammers community which has in turn paved the way for other communities to grow and flourish in South Africa,” says the creative who was elected Africa’s top Instagrammer of 2014 and 2015 by the African blogger awards, and is the official South African Samsung Digital Imaging Ambassador.

Pon didn’t get involved with Instagram immediately. “To be honest I was a year late with the platform,” Pon confesses. “I was using it purely as another creative outlet; shooting photos and sharing them as best as I could, but also challenging myself to do it more to grow my visual literacy. Needless to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that have come from it.”

This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared in the 3 September 2015 edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here.

photography  |  entrepreneurs  |  instagram  |  social media
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