Who thought a social media platform would be someone’s source of income revenue, their big break and a way of making a living? Lebogang Mokoena speaks to Africa’s top voted Instagramer, Samsung Electronics 2015 digital imaging brand ambassador and founder of Instagramer South Africa Community, Gareth Pon.
Career on Instagram
Megapixels, flashlights, close ranges, snaps, frames, subjects, targets and we have a photograph. He climbed the ladder from zero to hero.
Gareth Pon is only 28 years of age and has accumulated a following of more than 200 000 followers on a global photo-sharing application called Instagram. The proclaimed Africa’s top Instagramer, is also Samsung’s electronics 2015 digital imaging brand ambassador and founder of Instagramer South African Community. He has a unique approach of storytelling through photography, using social media Instagram as a means to do so.
“I never had any intentions of being where I am today,” says this Bedfordview-born social media loudmouth. “I think I have always been someone who would like to pursue creativity. I really discovered that I like creativity probably half way through my pre-school. I picked it up at a very young age. My life has been a combination of all the right mistakes. There are things I want to try and things I want to do but there is something that goes wrong but skews me to the right direction.”
Starting small is going big. Gareth has a charismatic personaliy. Having signed up for over a 150 million users on Instagram, such a character can leave one in awe as to who he is and what makes him a young role model to his followers.
Description of Gareth
Well-dressed, stylish, with a nerdy look and geared up to capture pictures, Gareth describes himself as a go getter.
“I would probably describe myself as someone who turns to enjoy the ride but never plans too much because I know things never go as planned. But they always turn out as perfectly as they meant to. I consider myself a creative. Someone who loves to search for things, discover things and loves to share things with others, who gives out a lot. I try to share the knowledge I get. I am very open handed and I love bringing people together,” he says.
Gareth’s role within the community involves coaching the local potential of Instagram, seeing communities grow first hand while developing the medium of mobile photography. “Initially, I started it [Instagram] to discover Jo’burg. I feel like there is a negative connotation around the city and I started using it as a way to tell a different perspective. A perspective of what the city is, he shares.
The Instagram South African community developed through meetings called InstaMeets, shortened for ‘Intstagram Meetings’. InstaMeets are meets up for Instagram, Gareth explains. Originally starting internationally, Gareth started a local version of it, holding meetings in all the countries cities with the aim of capturing all the different cities (Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town).
Gareth takes his friend Rulane a photograph using his Samsung S6 at Melville, Johannesburg
Getting recognised by Instagram
Instagram recognised the work of this passionate creative. He says that through determination, Instagram recognized him and other members of the community, acknowledging their talent and skills. Gareth says that when he first started using this social media network, he never toke it serious. He says gradually he started using it very much. Through Instagram he has made new friends from different countries. Instagram was just an application to him he says.
“Instagram is a place to express creativity. It is also a way to make great connections. It is a great way to build up exposure for following. At the back of that, the exposure brings personal connections. All of that shows you how the platform is so big,” he says expressing what Instagram means to him. “There is a guy who had not touched a camera in his life till he used Instagram. He is now some of the biggest guys. He is now a professional photographer in the world. He takes photographs and showcases them on Instagram on a full time basis now. It is through such stories and people that you realize the importance of such a platform,” he says. Besides photography, Gareth devotes his time to filmmaking, animation, architecture and fashion designing. “I make most of my money through consulting with brands. I do workshops on how to utilize Instagram. I do a lot of international partnerships with the guys oversees. It is a mix of things.”
“When I am not working, I am sleeping but there is always something to do,” he says laughing. “I love cycling. I actually love reading so that I know what is going on, what is the next thing,” he says.
Advises about using social media
Gareth acknowledges that social media has of negativity however, advices young people using social media to use it wisely. His advice is that young people must be conscious of the realities that social media can exert on them if not used probably.
“A good measuring spoon I use is that I will never share something that I won’t say to my mom. I never complain. I never say bad things. I never do that, unless I am taking a stand”, Gareth says. Gareth says doing this helped him and will always be his guideline. “I am not going to post a photo that my mom will ask me, ‘why did you post it?’”, he says.
Different strokes for every folks. People use social media for various reasons. Gareth is of the opinion that other use social media to portray different images other than their own original self. “Other people use social media for hiding. They project it as a way to define them. From the word go, I have tried to project an image that is very real and very honest”, he says.
Gareth chooses to share stories to people out there and project less of himself on his account. “Even if you upload a provocative selfie today and delete tomorrow, someone is seeing it. It is there somewhere. The reality is that you have to be careful,” he says.
He says that on a daily basis he receives multiple friend requests on Facebook from strangers but has told himself that he will not take social media personally. “There is always a clear line of what I will put online. I won’t share what I don’t want online.”
Gareth regards himself as someone who likes laughing. He shares a real life story about himself and his parents. He says that it is worth laughing when looking back and thinking about how his family is not travelling norm and seeing that he now gets the privilege to visit other countries, meeting new people some of which have become close friends. “I look back and laugh because I have been to Jordan, Brazil, France and Mauritius and now plan to go to Italy and then later the United States,” he says.
Social media is reciprocal, but this does not mean that an account holder will have followers automatically. A fan base are built through loyalty and dedication to deliver content. Gareth acknowledges that building an audience is never easy. He says that signing up for Instagram during its early days helped him to build an audience. “It really boils down to three things which are: firstly, creating great content, secondly, interacting a lot with people and lastly being nice”, he says. Mobile photography impacts how we interact, engage and create content. Gareth says that mobile photography impacts how content is produced and is definitely the future. As South African Samsung ambassador, the advantage of mobile photography has brought about flexibility through its ability to be creative, being able to capture photographs effortlessly and the ability to use various apps to produce good quality, he says. “Mobile photography gives feasibility to a room of creativity”, he says.
Gareth believes that everyone should have at least have one ridiculous dream and believe can come true. His dream is to go to space but he chose to maintain a career in film and photographer instead.