15+ everyday South Africans doing beautiful things on Instagram [Digital All Stars]

cel smith instagram south africa digital all stars

Digital All Stars is a series of articles which aims to celebrate the best of South African digital. The articles, which will appear on Memeburn and Ventureburn, recognise and celebrate South Africa’s best digital entrepreneurs, business people, advertisers, and media professionals among others.

Forget the influencers for a moment, or accounts with millions of followers. Think about the first few months Instagram hit South Africa. The platform was laced with pretty images of landscapes, buildings, people and cats, taken by those either just starting their careers in photography or trying out a new platform.

While corporate use has largely become a mainstay on the network, the essence of Instagram hasn’t yet been dissolved. In fact, I’d argue that content creation on the network by its lesser-known users has never been of a higher quality.

As smartphones receive better cameras, DSLRs drop in price, and more photo-centric apps are developed for low-power devices, there are more than enough reason for anyone to tap a shutter button and hit upload.

Instagram users needn’t have millions of followers to be recognised, or celebrated for their photography

In this Digital All Stars article, we take a look at those doing just that. We’re celebrating those with great works of art on display, but relatively low follower numbers. Those who are doing great things with nature as their subject, and their camera as the object. Those who have not yet been discovered by the wider world.

In this piece, we look at just some of the South Africans on Instagram with less than 1000 followers publishing incredible, notable or highly-respectable works. After all, why should an all star be defined or confined by a number?

Note: If you feel that we’ve left anyone out of this list, or would like to nominate someone on Instagram for inclusion, please get in touch with us via email. This will likely be the first edition of many for this particular piece, and as Instagram evolves, so will this Digital All Stars sub-series.

Justin Petzer (@DiaryofJustin)

Age: 29
Setup: iPhone SE and GoPro Hero 4 Silver

Residing in Cape Town, Justin Petzer’s Instagrams are usually composed of a selfie on a background of one of the city’s famous landmarks.

Be it Hout Bay’s overbeating Sentinel, the city’s stately Lion’s Head, or the suited-up penguins of Boulders Beach, Petzer likely snapped it.

“I am driven by the beauty around us,” Justin tells us.

“Being able to potentially capture a part of that beauty and being able to share it with others. Taking photos can perfectly capture a situation and then take you back into it years later. Moments are fleeting and people/landscapes are constantly changing. Who knows if the light on the mountain will ever be that exact way again? Your camera allows you to document and preserve that memory so it can live with you and transport you back there forever.

“There’s also a story behind each and every photograph and I love that aspect! Who you were with when you took it, was there an adventure before to capture the moment.”

He also dabbles in a number of action sports, including cycling and bodyboarding, giving him the perfect reason and opportunity to take some pretty incredible shots.

“I’ve climbed mountains for shots, run races for shots, somersaulted into freezing water for shots and patiently waited for the right moment when taking photos of animals for shots — it’s all part of the adventure!”

Alistair Routledge (@thefreeamigo)

Age: 35
Setup: Nikon D750

Alistair Routledge really, really loves his nature. He picked up photography as a hobby in 2006 while living in the United Kingdom, but is now based in Johannesburg snapping portraits, landscapes and practically anything else with jagged edges and wicked angles.

It was only when he acquired a DSLR, that the platform became a spiritual home of sorts for his snaps.

“When I started on Instagram it was just a place for me to upload snapshots I’d taken on my phone, a visual diary of sorts,” he relates to Memeburn.

“I only started posting my ‘more serious’ work (pictures taken with a DSLR) in the last year or so, as it’s grown into this incredible tool for reaching potentially tens of thousands (if not millions) of people. It’s a great platform for getting exposure and I think a lot more people are using it more as on online portfolio than just a social media app.”

He isn’t afraid to chase the perfect shot either, with “many long hours sat at waterholes waiting for the perfect moment to happen” he writes, “and lugged heavy bags of gear many kilometres up mountains in search of that perfect sunset or landscape.”

“But I wouldn’t call that trouble, it’s all a part of why we do this.”

George Kambwiri (@sundisk_photography)

Age: 27
Setup: Nikon D7000

We seek shade together when we are not seeking pain together.

A post shared by Amun Sun (@sundisk_photography) on

George Kambwiri, better known online as Amun Sun, was actually born in Malawi. However, he grew up in the Free State and is currently based in Polokwane, Limpopo.

He’s been snapping since 2011, but only began his Instagram journey in 2013.

“I believe I have always been a creative and being able to observe the nuances of society allows me to find inspiration from day to day life,” he tells Memeburn.

“Being from Polokwane where there is little to no creative industry I found my location to be the best angle of approach to putting out content that presents the people and spaces of a predominantly rural and traditional landscape in a unique way that makes my photography interesting.”

But photography in general also comes with a fair amount of risk.

“I once went into the Polokwane CBD to get some street photography shots and in the process some young men from a nearby township that work in the area parking and washing cars had thought I was taking pictures of them,” he explains.

“They approached me in a group of 5 on the offensive, threatening to take my camera because they didn’t like that I was taking photos of them. I eventually showed them the shots I took and seeing as they weren’t in the frame, I was spared the ordeal.”

Alex van Rensburg (@oolex)

Age: 31
Setup: Ricoh GR and LG Nexus 5X

Alex van Rensburg probably has the most interesting camera setup on this list, using a lesser-spotted Ricoh GR sub-compact and an LG Nexus 5X. With them, he captures South Africa’s vivid and often perplexing landscapes and animals… including a rat riding a Roomba.

“I like making stuff,” he tells us.

“I think that’s what I get satisfaction from in life and is probably the reason I studied design. It can be a picture, website, video, song, whatever. I enjoy shooting landscapes and stars because I feel incredibly lucky to live in South Africa where we have so much of both. Stars in particular are amazing to capture because you can often reveal features that can’t be seen with the naked eye and the long exposures give a timeless, ethereal feel.”

Van Rensburg’s Instagram journey began in 2010, but recent technology has allowed him to upload more frequently to the social network from the end of last year.

“I use Instagram because it is on almost everyone’s phone. I also have a strong aversion to Facebook and Twitter is not great for photos,” he explains.

As for his favourite snap?

“My all time favourite is probably a shot of start trails over Spandaukop in Graaff-Reinet. It was the first time I tried to get circular star trails,” he recalls.

“I spent 40 minutes hoping it would work and I got it right first try.”

Jan Schellingerhout (@janschellingerhout)

Setup: Canon 50D and Samsung Galaxy J5

Jan Schellinghout resides in Uitenhage, just a few kilometres outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. He also still snaps with the venerable Canon 50D, a camera fairly long in the tooth… But you really wouldn’t say judging by his work.

Many snaps are personal — of family and friends — but some envisage natural subjects dominated by soft tones, richer hues and monochrome. The latter of which are moody and dramatic.

He doesn’t post to Instagram often — only 69 snaps have been uploaded to his account thus far — but as they say, quality over quantity.

We were unable to contact Jan Schellinghout prior to publication, but we will update if we receive comment.

Liseli Ngoma (@staying_thecourse)

Age: 29
Setup: iPhone 4S, Nikon D3200 and LeEco Le 2

There’s something notably simple and honest about Liseli Ngoma’s photography. As a full-time writer, it’s perhaps fitting that minimalism comes naturally. But simple lines and sharp contrasts isn’t all that interests her.

“I love taking pictures of anything really, whether it goes on the gram is another story,” she explains to Memeburn.

She’s been on Instagram now for four years, beginning her photography journey on Flickr.

“I think I woke up one day and realised that photographs are like moments captured in time and not just those special moments like weddings, graduations or birthdays but the everyday kinda moments,” she adds, explaining exactly how she fell in love with stills.

“To be honest I desire to be easily inspired, I feel like photography is a creative outlet for me and so I try to be open and I think that probably makes my pictures not as ‘themed’ as some think they should be but I also feel like I don’t want to be taking pictures for the likes or to conform to a certain aesthetic, but my own.”

The social network for her is “like a diary”.

“I can actually remember where I took every photo,” she concludes.

Bianca Wiesner (@binxywiesner)

Age: 27
Setup: Canon 70D and Huawei P9

As a full-time designer, Wiesner sees photography has a break from the stress of the nine-to-five. Her focus — at least her primary love — are portraits, and capturing the varied levels of human emotion. When not focussing on people, she also snaps the odd landscape or three.

Ultimately, she’s always after “that perfect shot, the perfect light”.

“I made a deal with my naive former self that if I could get to a 1000 followers I would buy a camera,” she explains to Memeburn.

“Being OCD and the impatient person I am, I had 80 followers when I bought my camera. I then started attending instameets, meeting amazing new people, exploring more of my city, I fell in love photography from that moment on.”

Monique Van Der Walt (@monique_pr_)

Age: 31
Setup: Samsung Galaxy S7

Van der Walt tells Memeburn that her Instagram journey began just last year, when she grew hungry to find her life’s purpose. She, like many others who use Instagram, snap all her images using a smartphone, which gives credence to the leap in camera refinement these devices have enjoyed this decade.

But even with great equipment, photography also requires a keen eye.

“You can find find beauty in anything if you keep your eyes and mind open,” she notes.

“Macrophotography thrills me, as well as water,” and her Instagram roll is laden with both.

When not snapping flora, animals and everyday objects up close, van der Walt also hunts down her idea of a perfect shot which is at present a sunrise through the rain — the fruits of which you can see above.

Wade Baartman (@wahid12)

Age: 31
Setup: iPhone 6

#capetown #sunset #beach

A post shared by @wahid12 on

Baartman’s photography boasts the sharp lines and stark contrasts of Johannesburg and South Africa’s smaller cities. His Instagram journey began in 2012 which provided a perfect alternative to the “noise” of Facebook.

“We are blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing and beautiful things,” he tells Memeburn, explaining just why he loves viewing his world through the lens.

“Many of us unfortunately don’t take the time to soak it all up, let alone take the time to change their perspective when looking at everyday things. . I enjoy taking it all in, photography’s my way of trying to capture those moments — my perspective of the world around me.”

As for capturing the perfect shot, he has this line of advice: “There’s always time to take a photo, it takes seconds and you’ll capture the moment forever. Don’t postpone it until later.”

Paddy Wright (@paddy.wright)

Few Instagram accounts feel more like Friday than Paddy Wright’s. A bodyboarder and avid GoPro user, Wright’s Instagram roll is almost one with the tides.

He has a knack for timing and framing, two techniques that appear prominently in his photography.

We were unable to contact Paddy Wright prior to publication, but we will update if we receive comment.

Junaid Mohamed (@junzmoe21)

Age: 27
Setup: Sony A390 and iPhone 7

Junaid Mohamed began his Instagram journey three years ago, and currently snaps with a Sony A390 and an iPhone 7. When we spoke to him, he explains that it was this technology that changed his views of photography and Instagram itself.

“Instagram for me at first was used for personal pictures until I got myself my camera and a lot changed,” he tells Memeburn.

“I don’t think we know or understand how much of our daily lives can be captured, and appreciate the beauty that unfolds in our every day-to-day life.”

His Instagram roll exhibits all subjects, from luggage trolleys to sunsets to hue-rich vistas of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.

“If I see something somewhere that’s beautiful, and I think its not known to people, I like to show its beauty and capture the beauty to show people about hidden places,” he concludes.

Mark Williams-Wynn (@md_wynn)

Age: 28
Setup: Canon 70D, previously a Canon 500D

It takes flattering light and a kind soul (we imagine) to make a spotted hyena an adorable photogenic subject, but that’s what Mark Wynn did with the above snap. His Instagram roll is dominated by nature viewed through the lens in a soft, almost serene light.

Mark Williams-Wynn has been snapping since his teenage years, but has only adopted Instagram as a platform of choice in 2012.

“Some of my favourite shots are probably those involving wildlife,” he tells Memeburn, explaining that he also once lugged around 4kg in total along the Otter Trail, ensuring he didn’t miss “that shot”.

“I like to excel in whatever I do, and this is what drives me to get ‘that’ shot,” he adds.

“My favourite subject is definitely wildlife. I enjoy being out in the middle of nowhere, whether I get any great shots or not. After wildlife photography, my next favourite is landscape photography.”

“I love photography because it is a way to use my technical abilities to be creative. Photos help me to remember the places that I’ve been to and the things that I’ve seen, which otherwise fade from memory,” he concludes.

Myllo Menorah (@myllo_africa)

Myllo Menorah’s photography is exceptional. Residing in Durban, he captures the essence of the city through monochrome and popping, natural hues. Primarily tuning his lens to portraits, Menorah also snaps the expanding city’s ever changing face.

“I did photography after saving some money because I couldn’t afford it. I was a photographer since 93, 94, but I only went to Tech in 98. So it took me 3 or 4 years to save up the money,” he tells PhotoWriting in an interview.

“I shoot stories now. Things that interest me. I haven’t made money from it yet.”

We were unable to contact Myllo Menorah prior to publication, but we will update if we receive comment.

Bronwen du Plessis (@bronwendupless)

Age: 40
Setup: Sony Cybershot and Samsung Galaxy A3

Stopped to appreciate this view #windpomp #windpump #northwest

A post shared by Bronwen du Plessis (@bronwendupless) on

If you thought Instagram only penetrated South Africa’s largest cities, think again. Bronwen du Plessis resides in the centre of South Africa, the Free State, where she snaps the land’s incredible forms and colours. When she received a camera as a gift in 2011, her love for photography was reignited.

“Life drives me, we are here for such a short time and if you don’t get out there and enjoy the little things they are lost, but if you manage to capture some of those moments and freeze them in time, why not?” she tells Memeburn.

She joined Instagram in 2012, when the platform was only just beginning to sprout wings in South Africa. Filling her timeline with vistas of the sky, she recalls her favourite ever picture captured.

“The sun was setting and we were braaing in the veld on our neighbours’ land and my sons and their cousins were standing engrossed in their conversation and I took a silhouette shot of the moment.”

As for why she uses the platform? For the love of photography, she tells us.

“I love capturing moments, natural moments. I like sharing it with people who can appreciate what I do. I like seeing what others do and learning from other ‘Grammers’.”

Cel Smith (@celsmith3)

Age: 46
Setup: Huawei P7

Cel Smith is based in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, home to long rolling hills and a gorgeous coastline. That shines through in her photography, when using her family as subjects, or simply capturing the fading light of the day.

She started using Instagram to “spy” on her son’s timeline. “He’s a way better photographer than I am, by the way,” she tells us.

“Being in different spaces drives me — my husband and I love to explore different places — we will never be those people who go to the same beach cottage every year. I love to watch people and I love to breathe deeply in beautiful spaces,” she adds.

“Every sunset is different, every wave and how it crashes on the rocks is unique.”

Mariel Green (@you_me_jimny)

Age: 34
Setup: Canon 650D, and occasionally the Canon SX40 HS and iPhone 5S

It’s quite remarkable that this Instagram roll has just 100 followers. Mariel Green snaps all sorts of subjects in a myriad styles, from action stills that resemble oil paintings, to stark and dramatic portraits.

Her use of Instagram began a couple of years ago, using the social network as a “visual diary”.

“For me it’s a vehicle for nostalgia. It forces curation and I really like the easy interface and format, it does the photos a lot of justice. I actually started using it because I know someone who started a company that prints photos straight from your Instagram account and I wanted some printed and then I fell in love with the process,” she tells us.

“I love creating something out of nothing — to take (a) photo where maybe only I see something in it. Silhouettes are my favourite, because the lens sees something different to the human eye, and is usually super moody,” she tells Memeburn.

And in case you’re wondering, her profile handle is an ode to Hercules — a Suzuki Jimny.

Moeketsi Mokay Lebakeng (@mokayl)

Age: 25
Setup: Nikon D3100 and iPhone 6

Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city, and is a gateway to much of the country. But snapping its particular mundane charms is a task many of the photographers in the city try to accomplish.

Moeketsi Lebakeng is one such photographer. Taking pictures of the everyday in the big city, Lebakeng reveals the often disregarded beauty in everyday objects.

He began snapping in 2013, and “a year later I decided to join Instagram, finally the platform exposed me to other great photographers”, he tells Memeburn. Like many others, he chose Instagram because of its user base, as well as its photography-loving audience.

“I am driven by the need to create, tell stories, I am an interaction designer and photographer (and) a lot of what I do revolves around creation. I want to be able to convey emotions, ideas, sentiments, thoughts and reality.”

While he’s currently experimenting with portraits, Lebakeng also takes a few risks in order to get the perfect snap.

“I have gone through a lot since I shoot most (of the) images in the city,” he explains. One of the riskiest challenges in particular was taking photos in one of the busier roads, as cars almost hit him, he says.

“(I) survived this but was so happy with results of the effort.”

Feature image: supplied by Cel Smith

Andy Walker, former editor


Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.