Whoever said love can move mountains was right. At least it is true for photographer Murad Osmann and his journalist wife Nataly. The Instagram sensations, counted among top travel influencers, are the creators of one of the most recognisable online entity, the #FollowMeTo series. Murad is followed by 4.6 million people on Instagram, Nataly is followed by one million people and another 4.85 lakh follow the FollowMeTo handle. Number crunching aside, there is something adorably sweet about their love that spills over, even when we chat with them over FaceTime.
They finish each other’s sentences, looking at each other lovingly. Nataly leans over Murad’s shoulder even as he tells us how she is the more expressive one among them. Nataly tells us about Murad's great sense of humour. They met through common friends and Murad perused her to meet. “I would try to impress her by showing off my bike riding skills,” Murad recalls. They are two different people who love to travel. “It’s good to have different perspectives, so that we can look at the same thing from different angles,” Nataly says. They talk to each other in Russian. Well, mostly. “Sometimes she talks to me in Hindi but I don’t understand,” Murad jokes. They are as love struck as they were six years ago when Murad made the first-ever #FollowMeTo photograph with Nataly in Barcelona.
“We had no idea that a simple photo would create such a buzz. We were doing what we always do on our travels... I take photos and Nataly nudges me to follow her,” Murad says with bewilderment in his voice. Nataly chips in saying that he likes to stop every five minutes to take pictures and all she was doing was pointing to a beautiful spot. That one picture catapulted them into a galaxy of digital movers and shakers. How life changed after it, we ask. “Well, Nataly and a bit of my hand became celebrities,” Murad jokes, as Nataly laughs. It definitely gave them a chance to translate their vision into reality and not only experience different cultures but also let a bigger audience be a part of it.
Over the years, Murad has refined his photographs even as Nataly, also a journalist and a model, puts together the looks. For their India series, she wore clothes by designers Rohit Bal, Tarun Tahiliani, Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, Manish Arora, Rahul Mishra, Nikhil Thampi, and Arjun Saluja. While they have travelled a great deal, with a flexible calendar, their bucket list is far from over.
The Instagram sensations, who tied the knot two years ago in two separate events (one at Murad’s native place and another in Moscow), now run a successful YouTube channel apart from their Social Media campaigns. Their India series garnered 1,293,871 views (and counting) in less than two weeks. Their YouTube channel has videos from their travels to Bali, Cuba, India, Japan, Myanmar, and Cambodia. “The last one is from China and it’s really worth watching,” Murad says. Through their photos and videos, they make the trails popular, spills footfall.
But, nothing can replace hard work. “There is a lot of ground work involved. We are constantly on the move, looking for newer places to explore, newer spots to strike a pose. Audience demand more sophistication and complex frames,” Murad says. It is always easier to be a flash in the pan, but sustaining fame is the real challenge, they say.
Currently, Murad and Nataly are working with Four Seasons Hotel on a new cocktail called Follow Me To. “You can try it at Four Seasons Hotel Moscow at the Moskovsky bar, and will be available soon at other Four Seasons Hotels,” Nataly says.
While popularity has its perks, but there is a flip side too. There are imposters and copycats. “We are not perturbed by any of it. In fact, we are happy when people copy our pose,” Nataly says. “We, in fact, encourage everyone to recreate it and post it so that we can repost it,” Murad says. “Ivanka Trump recently made an amazing #FollowMeTo photo,” Nataly recalls.
Murad and Nataly would like the #FollowMeTo series to transcend time and boundaries. “We want it to become bigger than us, and take a life of its own,” Murad says.