follow me to...
The world has followed them from barcelona to Shanghai. cathy wagstaff speaks with the Russian couple that inspired a social media phenomenon.
behind the scenes with Instagram sensations Murad and Nataly Osmann.
murad and nataly osmann have 3.8 million followers on instagram, a book anthologising their photos (with a second on the way), a collaboration with macy’s department store, a TV show about to air and a new jewellery line set to debut later this year.
Their wanderlust-worthy photos feature an impeccably attired nataly leading a snap-happy murad as they discover the exotic cities of the world. Together they have created a social media phenomenon that has seen the #FollowmeTo hashtag carried across the globe – with no signs of stopping.
The success is humbling for the Russian couple, whose signature pose was born out of a moment of impatience; in the first #FollowmeTo image from october 2011, nataly is all but dragging her shutterbug partner through the streets of barcelona. Friends following their european travels on instagram loved the photo, and the pair went on to replicate the pose throughout the city, and then the country. within two years, their “passion project” was known around the world.
“we started it by accident,” murad tells me from his van, currently travelling through the mountains of southern china. “we were just following our passion for travel. and then out of nowhere ‘The daily mail’ picked it up and it went viral.”
in pursuit of the perfect shot although the moscow-based couple were originally just snapping photos as they went on an iPhone, nowadays they plan their trips carefully with sophisticated equipment in tow. Their short jaunts take just three days (“a day scouting, a day shooting and a day leaving”), while their longer journeys are planned around annual leave. They limit their time to one day per location, asking local instagrammers for suggestions for a different view on iconic landmarks.
one of their trickier shoots took them high above the hollywood hills in a helicopter – without doors. “it was a surprise for nataly; she didn’t know we would be flying without them,” murad recalls, a hint of mischief in his voice.
“because it’s a residential area, we only had two minutes to fly around the hollywood sign. i was leaning well outside the machine, connected only by a small strap and tape.” it took two flights to get the shot. it shows nataly perched on the edge of her seat, her leg nonchalantly thrown over the side of the helicopter, her right hand gripping the door frame. her outstretched hand
clasps murad’s as they fly towards the iconic beacon of Tinseltown, mixing beach hair and bare feet with a sequinned gown and sparkling gems.
other shoots have seen them posing with elephants at the amer Fort in Jaipur, during one of their most memorable adventures in india. The painted pachyderms were constantly moving, unable to stop in the middle of the street, “so we were running in front of them, trying to capture the shot.”
elsewhere in india, it was the onlookers they couldn’t control. if you get a chance to see beyond the usual square-cropped image on their behindthe-scenes instagram account, @followmetraveller, you can see whole crowds being held back by friends and travelling companions as murad single-handedly wields his camera. in one early-morning shot from delhi, there are hundreds of people milling around them, phones out to capture their fleeting encounter with the instafamous couple.
in hong Kong, they once clambered over private residences in pursuit of the perfect shot from Victoria Peak. “but we were with the local tourism board, so we didn’t get in too much trouble. i think they did though!”
hundreds of suitcases of dresses one of the most distinctive aspects of the Follow me To series is the incredible outfits donned by nataly in each photo. From bikinis in the maldives to elaborate wedding dresses in india, her command over her personal style is striking. For difficult shoots, the pair will travel with a crew and find local stylists, but otherwise it’s left to murad to carry “all those hundred suitcases”, as he jokes, of his wife’s clothes. (nataly will tell you it’s his camera equipment.)
Right from the early days, murad and nataly began seeking out local designers for her on-camera wardrobe, sourcing them via local instagrammers.
They communicate with up-coming designers of both dresses and elaborate