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Melville Cat in bedroom

The Melville Cat: My Favorite Feline Instagrammers

From the Melville Cat: As many of you know, I am an Instagrammer as well as a blogger. You can peruse my Instagram photos at @TheMelvilleCat. This photo, which portrays me relaxing thoughtfully on my bedroom floor, recently appeared on my Instagram feed. Heather shoots all of my photos, with active direction from me. I also enjoy following the adventures of my fellow felines on Instagram. The feline Instagram community is prolific, perhaps because cats are so obviously photogenic (especially me). Since you haven’t heard from me for a while on this blog, I thought I would drop in and share with you my five favorite feline Instagrammers (in addition to myself, of course). 1) @LudwigoftheLofts @LudwigoftheLofts is a Johannesburg native like myself. Not only is Ludwig a beautiful cat — with a snow-white coat, one blue eye, and one green eye — he also has a very entertaining personality. Ludwig enjoys escaping outside through the window of his loft in pursuit of female love interests, reclining upside-down amidst flowers, and squeaking at flies. Ludwig. Be sure to watch Ludwig’s Instagram videos as they are particularly inspired. 2) @BadCatPhotos @BadCatPhotos is perhaps my favorite of all feline Instagram accounts because it […]

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Lightning strike over Joburg, seen from Randlords

An Instagram Challenge in 2016. A Blog Challenge in 2017.

In 2016, I committed to post a photo on Instagram every day of the year as part of a challenge called #366DaysOfMakingSpace. Even though the subject of the challenge — anything that relates to making space in my life — was broad, and even though I didn’t have to post photos on the actual day they were taken, this challenge was damn hard. It was so hard that my blogger friend who convinced me to do the challenge in the first place didn’t finish herself. (You know I love you anyway, Dee.) I’m interspersing this post with some of my favorite #366daysofmakingspace shots from 2016. I posted this one during my visit to Istanbul in February. I only missed one #366daysofmakingspace post the whole year. I was in Cappadocia in Turkey, and was so overwhelmed by the scenery that I forgot to do a post. I made up for it by double-posting the following day. Cappadocia, also in February. There were many days in 2016 when I felt uninspired and had to dig way back into my archives to find a photo. (I never posted any photos that I’d posted on Instagram previously.) There were days when I was insanely busy and didn’t remember the challenge until right […]

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Oriental Plaza Instameet winners

The Oriental Plaza Instameet: Winners Announced

This is a quick post to announce: 1) The first-ever Oriental Plaza Instameet happened on 3 December and it was awesome; and 2) We’ve chosen the winners of the Instameet photography contest. The contest winners amidst a sea of Oriental Plaza holiday shoppers. From left to right: Andile (@may_i_take_a_picture), who won first place, Dominique (@dominiqueinthecity), second place, and Kevin (@kevinspired365_), third place. The Instameet was great. About 40 people came and everyone got into the spirit of the event, roaming around every corner of the Plaza and taking pictures of the shops, the food, and the people. Here are a couple of my own favorite Instagrams from the day. My friend Gail (@dizzylexa) takes photos inside the Plaza’s Grand Bazaar. Ra’eesa of @stylefabrics. Christmas in Africa. Meruschka, aka @mzansigirl, aka samoosa head. The Winning Photos More than 200 Instagrams were posted under the Instameet hashtags, #ShopAtORP and #FestiveDealsAtORP, and narrowing down the winning photos to three was a major challenge. Seriously, there were so many great photos and we agonized over dozens of them. I wish we could have picked more winners. But in the end, here are the photos we chose: Third place by @kevinspired365_. This portrait of a longtime shopowner just screams “Oriental Plaza”. […]

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Oriental Plaza Instameet infogram

News Flash: The First Oriental Plaza Instameet (With Prizes)

I first visited the Oriental Plaza six-and-a-half years ago, on 18 August 2010, 12 days after I moved to Johannesburg. I know this because I wrote a blog post about it the following day. The first photo I ever took at the Oriental Plaza, in August 2010. I’ve been to the Plaza at least 50 times since that first visit (read about other visits here and here and here), and the place still awes and delights me every time. It’s always at the top of my list of recommendations for things to do in Joburg. So imagine my joy when an opportunity arose to work with the Oriental Plaza on a social media campaign, encouraging people to come to the Plaza for an Instameet to kick off the Festive Season. (“Festive Season” is South African for “Holiday Season”.) I am so, so excited to host an Instameet at the Oriental Plaza. Our announcement for the upcoming Instameet — Instagram-speak for a gathering of photographers. As you can see, the Plaza is already decked out for Christmas. It’s a mall, technically, but the Plaza bears no resemblance to the bland, suburban megamalls that Johannesburg is famous for. First of all, the Plaza is in […]

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View of the Joburg skyline from the roof of Bjala Square in Jeppestown.

A Rainy Instameet in Jeppestown

On Saturday I helped organize an Instameet at a building called Bjala Square in Jeppestown, one of the most historic sections of downtown Johannesburg. It was cold and pouring rain — a rare occurrence in early winter — and I wondered if we should even go through with the Instameet. I’m glad we did. I’d been wanting to do a photo walk through Jeppestown for a while because I think it’s one of the most interesting parts of town. The neighborhood is 120 years old (ancient by Joburg standards) and has lots of historic buildings, but in recent decades Jeppestown has suffered severe neglect and decay. Most of the people who live in Jeppestown today are surviving on very little, often living in abandoned or illegally occupied buildings. A photo I took on Marshall Street in Jeppestown in 2012. This building is painted to look like a historic photograph shot on the same street in 1896. I had hoped to walk down this street on Saturday but the weather didn’t cooperate. The urban decay in Jeppestown has made the area a popular painting spot for graffiti artists. Thanks in large part to the annual City of Gold Urban Art Festival, which has been concentrated in and […]

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Six Underrated Joburg Instagrammers to Follow in 2016

When I joined Instagram, the first thing I did (after posting a really bad picture of my cat) was type “#Joburg” into the search bar and see what came up. I love the fact that Instagram has connected me to so many great Johannesburg-based photographers and although I follow people from all over the world, the Joburg accounts are my favorites. I was going through my “Following” list recently and realized that the Joburg accounts I like best aren’t necessarily those that you see in the usual “Top 10 Instagrammer…” articles that make the rounds on the Interwebs. I particularly love Instagram’s Joburg storytellers — photographers who really focus on Joburg and tell the city’s story from a specific angle or with a certain style. Accounts like this tend to be underrated, in my opinion, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites here, in no particular order: @ihsaan_haffo Ihsaan Haffejee is a Joburg-based photojournalist. He covers all kinds of interesting news but his feed has a particular focus on Joburg’s Muslim communities. Ihsaan posts a nice mix of both iPhone and DSLR shots. @dayphotolife @dayphotolife, whose real name is Dudu Maphumula, lives in Hillbrow and shoots most of his pictures there. […]

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A Year of Making Space

My friend Dee, who blogs at The Good Holiday, contacted me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I wanted to work with her on a #365Days project in 2016. I traveled with Dee during my recent trip to Reunion Island. She is a warm, passionate, hilarious person and she loves teaming up with other bloggers on projects like this. Dee on a mountain in Reunion Island. So of course I couldn’t say no to her. But I’m not gonna lie: I was nervous. If you’re a regular on Instagram then you probably know what a #365Days project is. If not, let me explain. A #365Days project is basically a commitment to post an Instagram every single day, for an entire year, using one specific hashtag. I’ve seen people do 365 days of portraits, 365 days of jumpstagrams, 365 days of long-exposure shots, etc. I’ve never tried to do a #365Days project before but I did participate in a “100 Happy Days” project once, in which I posted a photo of something that made me happy every day for 100 consecutive days. It was freaking hard. I don’t like to post bad pictures on Instagram and sometimes it’s hard to come […]

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Ode to Instagram

Dear Instagram, Yesterday I reached 50,000 followers on your app. I don’t want to focus too much on that number because what do social media numbers really mean, anyway? My large Instagram following has something to do with my photography, sure. But it also has a lot to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time. There are lots of great photographers with far fewer followers and lots of crappy photographers with more. (Nonetheless, reaching 50,000 Instagram followers is pretty flipping cool. If I told you I wasn’t over-the-moon excited about it, I would be lying.) But even before this 50k thing happened, I’ve been thinking lately about how much I love you. I’ve loved you ever since I uploaded that first fuzzy picture of my cat, shot with my iPad, more than three years and 1900 posts ago. I Facebook as much as the next person, and I tweet because I have to. But you, Instagram, you I truly love. I wake up every morning excited to see you. You introduced me to many of my closest friends. You improve my photography. You encourage me to explore. You’re always evolving, working to suit my needs better. You […]

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How (Not) to Jump Off a Stadium

The Commonwealth Games, an Olympics-like sporting competition involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, are headed to Durban in 2022. The 2022 host city won’t be officially announced until September 2015, but it turns out that Durban is the only bidder. (Edmonton, Canada, initially submitted a bid but later withdrew it.) So…yay! It’s not 100% confirmed but the Commonwealth Games are most likely coming to Africa for the first time ever. (Incidentally, the Olympics have also never been held on African soil. WTF? This needs to change.) Last weekend I was invited to Durban, along with a few other journalists/bloggers/instagrammers, to do fun things in the city and create some hype for the Commonwealth Games bid. Mainly we hung around Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup and one of the most beautiful stadiums in South Africa. Looking up at the roof of Moses Mabhida Stadium. See that narrow walkway going across, near the top of the frame? Store that away for later. Our morning started with breakfast on the Durban Beachfront, which is one of my favorite places to hang out in Durban. I drank a smoothie and watched the cyclists roll past, soaking in the sun. Durban beachfront Instagram. […]

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Around Zimbabwe in 14 Days: Snaps From the Road

I’m in Zimbabwe, halfway through a two-week photography and writing assignment for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). I’m traveling all over the country — from the capital city of Harare to some of the country’s most remote rural villages and back again — documenting success stories in pediatric HIV and AIDS prevention. The photos and stories that I’m compiling will eventually be published in a book. I can’t show you the actual pictures that I’m taking for EGPAF. But I’m sneaking this one in because it’s one of my favorites. I’ve forgotten this three-year-old girl’s name — I’ve met too many people this week. Her mother is Brenda, a community health worker I interviewed in Dete Village in Mashonaland West province. There is nothing I enjoy more than traveling to remote, beautiful places in interesting parts of the world, talking to interesting people and taking their photos. And there is no better place to do this than Zimbabwe. I hate to sound cliché but this week I have been struck again and again by how kind, open, intelligent, and welcoming people are in this country. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be here doing this work. I’m exhausted though, and I still have another […]

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An Empty Stadium, Filled With Instagram

Last weekend Instagram hosted a “Worldwide Instameet” — a global event in which groups around the world get together in their own cities, take photos, then share them on Instagram. The Joburg edition of the Worldwide Instameet took place last Sunday at FNB Stadium, otherwise known as Soccer City. Announcement for the Joburg Worldwide Instameet. I must confess that I wasn’t as excited as I should have been about this Instameet. I was utterly exhausted on Sunday, having just returned from two weeks of travel around South Africa and Lesotho. Plus I wasn’t sure about the venue. FNB Stadium is the most beautiful athletic stadium in South Africa — possibly one of the most beautiful in the world. It’s an inspiring piece of architecture. But an empty stadium seemed like a lifeless place for an Instameet to me. But I dragged myself there, because I had promised my friend Gareth (founder of @igerssouthafrica) that I would. Gareth is one of Joburg’s most talented filmmakers; he was shooting a video about the Instameet and asked me to be part of it. I feel a special big-sisterly affection for Gareth and couldn’t let him down. (Plus I am vain and wanted to be in the […]

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Around South Africa in 10 Instagrams

I really got around South Africa last week. I participated in #MeetSouthAfrica, a campaign sponsored by South African Tourism in which 14 travel bloggers split into three groups — the Luxury group, the Adventure group, and the Heritage group — and followed different routes around the country. I was in the Adventure group with Meruschka from Mzansi Girl, Melvin from Traveldudes, Matt from the Expert Vagabond, Caspar from StoryTravelers, and Kash from the Budget Traveller. We covered a massive swath of the country in a very short time and had an insane amount of fun. A rudimentary map showing the #MeetSouthAfrica Adventure group’s journey. I wish I had time to figure out how to make this look better (how do I get rid of that annoying box?!) but at least you can see the route. We traveled in a counter-clockwise rectangle — from Joburg, to the Northern Cape, to Cape Town, to Durban — by land and air. Here’s one of the high points (literally) of the trip, on a cliff overlooking the Orange River at sunset. Left to right: Matt (who fortunately did not sail over the cliff after this jump), Meruschka, me, Caspar, Kash, and Melvin. (Photo: Bontle Madiba) I have many stories to tell about #MeetSouthAfrica but I’m short on time. I returned to Joburg last night and I […]

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