As travellers, most of us have seen the incredible couple images where one partner leads the other to an incredible destination. Russia-based photographer Murad Osmann and his wife Nataly Osmann pioneered this instagram trend in 2011. Ten years, three Instagram accounts, and over three million followers later, the man behind the camera gets candid about the inception of #Followmeto, the life of an influencer couple, travelling with a baby, and their new projects. By Adila Matra
Travel + Leisure India: How and when did you get into photography and Instagram?
Murad Osmann: Both Nataly and I registered on Instagram at the end of 2010. I was into social media and photography websites that would act like galleries for a photographer. After failing my first year in Civil Engineering at Imperial College London, I moved back to Moscow for a year to study so that I could reattempt my exam. And I did. But in that year, I had taught myself photography, and when I finally graduated, I decided not to pursue engineering.
Travel + Leisure India: Tell us about the inception of the #followmeto series and how you choose your destinations.
Murad Osmann: We often say that we are pensioners of Instagram (laughs). Our series started from a spontaneous photo we took in Barcelona 10 years ago. And now we are here—a huge audience on social media (across three Instagram accounts @muradosmann, @natalyosmann, and @followmeto), several books, our own TV show, and a lot of different businesses around this project. At the core of it lies our passion for each other and travelling. This is what the #followmeto project is all about—love, travel, passion, culture, exploration, and adventure. Nataly stands with her back towards the viewer, kind of blocking the central composition. But this composition invites the viewer to be more adventurous and imagine that he/she is travelling with us.
We both have items in our bucket lists that we try to check off. It seems like we have been everywhere, but since we both work in Moscow, we cannot travel 365 days a year. We still haven’t been to places like Australia, Argentina, Peru, Iceland, New Zealand, South Africa, and many more. You also have to explore countries and research their cultures. You cannot say that you’ve been to France if you have been to Paris only.
Travel + Leisure India: How do you manage it all—a baby, three Instagram accounts, amazing photographs. What’s the trick?
Murad Osmann: I don’t know if we are managing (laughs). But this year has been very productive. Nataly opened her well-being space in Moscow. We have an app called Followmeto, which retouches photos using our presets and also gives you the option of cool new Instagram fonts. We have also launched #Followmetotour, a bespoke travel club where we take a group with us on our travels. So far, even through this pandemic, we have travelled to several destinations. We travelled to Egypt, where we arranged private access to the pyramids and the Sphinx, and a night tour of an Egyptian museum.
Travel + Leisure India: What goes behind the scenes of these wonderful photo shoots?
Murad Osmann: There is indeed a lot of work behind every picture. One of the most extensive and difficult setups was on our trip to India: we were shooting content in bridal wear, jewellery, and make-up. Nataly had to wake up at 2 am-3 am to get ready for the sunrise shoot—for seven to eight days in a row! Also, some locations are difficult to shoot as they get crowded during peak hours. Sunrises are better, but in places like the Taj Mahal, there are a lot of people queueing up for the sunrise and you have to outrun them.
Travel + Leisure India: Some of your photos look quite challenging to create. Any experience that stands out?
Murad Osmann: I guess the most challenging shoot was the one we did in Los Angeles: we were on a helicopter with open doors with a Hollywood sign in front of us. To get the shot, Nataly and I had to lean outside the helicopter.
Travel + Leisure India: Tell us a bit about your trip to India.
Murad Osmann: I must say that when someone travels to India just once and says that he has been to India, he is not being honest with himself. To truly see India, you have to come back many, many times. And we did come back several times. But I still believe we haven’t seen anything yet. Every time, we discover something new and it is breathtaking. We have been to Varanasi around five times, and it still feels like that is not enough. The Taj Mahal is, of course, a must-visit, but you cannot come to India and not visit the amazing cities of Rajasthan like Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur.
Travel + Leisure India: How old is your baby? Has he changed the way you work and travel?
Murad Osmann: He turned a year old in December. He has definitely changed everything, and now our whole life revolves around him. Work, life, travel, sleep—everything is according to his schedule (laughs). It has been a challenge to travel with him since he is super active nowadays. We have a 14-hour flight to Mexico with him soon, and I am already scouting the web about ‘how to travel with kids on long-haul flights’. As we have said before, having a baby won’t stop us from travelling. But we are trying to be responsible parents and not dragging him everywhere. We have also begun to post casual content now on a separate Instagram account called @theosmanns.
Travel + Leisure India: Which country and people were the warmest towards you?
Murad Osmann: If we had to choose, Jordan and India would be on the top of our list.
BUCKET LIST FOR 2022
Saudi Arabia, Peru, Iran, and India
- Check the updated COVID-19 rules and regulations
- Use smartphones with mobile lenses for pictures
- Travel light
- Research locations in advance