Who doesn’t know about Instagram? It’s thanks to this app that we all (or nearly all) feel like great photographers. Amongst the users that I follow, there is one who is particularly special: his name is @osnuflaz, and the subject in all his photos is a T-Rex.
One day, I decided to try to find the man behind the dinosaur, uncovering a truly original story (having seen the images, I expected nothing less)!
Who is @osnuflaz?
Alessandro Costa, coming up for fifty-two, born in Turin and living in Emilia, I’ve worked in exports for more than twenty years, which means I travel a lot, especially around Europe. Always been passionate about photography, without ever being anywhere near ‘professional’. I started taking photos with my mobile phone right from the very first models with an in-built camera. With the arrival of the iPhone, I made the definitive move to the smartphone for nearly all of my photos.
How did the T-Rex idea come about?
The T-Rex idea came about by chance, without any real ‘project’. One Saturday afternoon, trying out this application I’d downloaded a couple of months earlier – Instagram – I picked up the first thing that came to hand, and it happened to be T-Rex!
He very quickly went from object to ‘subject’, however, and, right from day one, I began taking large numbers of photos of T-Rex and posting them on Instagram . It took some time to really get in synch with the Instagram dynamics, and also to allow the dinosaur shoot settings to develop. But, after a few months, and after my first ‘Populars’, the exchanges amongst ‘T-Friends’ became more and more numerous, and T-Rex became an inseparable travel companion.
When did you start taking photos?
The very first shot was taken in January 2011. The first ‘Popular’ was taken in June, but the hard-and-fast rules of T-Rex Adventures were set right from the beginning:
– iPhone photos only;
– photos taken by me only and with no outside help;
– no Photoshop or digital enhancing, T-Rex must always be in every shot.
Simple rules to which I have always adhered. Rules that make the T-Rex Adventures photographs a kind of authentic work of art, and that have made creating some of the shots quite a complicated process.
Where do the ideas for each of the photos come from?
The photos are very often taken on the spur of the moment, and also, as I said, the fact that T-Rex is always with me makes it possible to take advantage of those one-off moments. However, some ideas are planned beforehand, with preparation, including acquiring other objects or characters. That’s why I now have a personal collection of dinosaurs numbering over one hundred items. So many in fact that, just out of fun (or madness), I created a new IG account a few months ago, under the name @igersjurassic, where I try to shoot T-Rex’s friends as though they were real.
Another example would be the T-Rex ‘Olympic’ series, when I posted one sports themed photo a day during the London Olympic games. I had such fun doing it, and I would say that it has been one of the favourite series amongst ‘T-Friends’. People also love the photos where T-Rex is shot alongside some innocent passers-by, who generally have a somewhat surprised expression to see me taking photographs of a toy in the middle of the street!
Which is the photo of which you are most proud?
There are lots of photos which symbolize important moments for T-Rex Adventures. But I think that the June 2011 ‘photooftheday’ is the one to which I am most attached.
The photo shows a group of dinosaurs busy playing beach volleyball. The idea came to me out of the blue whilst I was eating supper. I jumped up from the table and, in a few minutes, I’d created the set using objects I had to hand, and taken a series of photos. The whole thing took no more than half an hour. As soon as I’d posted the photo, it ended up in the Populars within a few minutes, but it was absolutely fantastic to see it voted ‘Photo of the Day’ the day after! Also, having it displayed on Webstagram for a whole day gave the image a visibility which, for the time (Instagram didn’t have the user base that it has today), was amazing.
Let’s talk about the ‘technical’ side of things: what do you use, other than the Instagram filters, to obtain the special effects that we see in your images?
As I said, all the photos are taken using an iPhone. For 1500 of my photos, the only filter I used was the ‘Toaster’ filter on Instagram. Purely because it was the filter I used in the very first photo. From photo number 1501, though, also because I’d started using different photoshop applications with another Instagram account (without dinosaurs), I began to play around with shades and colours with T-Rex Adventures too. I use all sorts of applications and I love to try out the latest ones. The ones I use the most are definitely Snapseed, Picfx and PhotoStudio, and I mix them up without following any particular strategy, until I get the result I’m happiest with. For every posted photo, there are several testers, just as there are thousands of T-Rex photos that will never be used.
Where will @osnuflaz, but above all T-Rex, be one year from now?
T-Rex celebrated his second birthday in January, and today there are more than 1700 images on the Instagram feed. The development of IG into a mainstream phenomenon has significantly altered its core spirit. It’s now almost impossible to get visibility on IG, but T-Rex and @osnuflaz are still very attached to the app, so I think that the T-Rex Adventures will continue.
Nonetheless, in the past few months some unedited shots have been posted on other social networks, such as EyeEm and Tadaa (copycat versions of IG), and also on Foursquare, which I am starting to appreciate more and more. All the images, however, can always be found on T-Rex’s Facebook page, where you can also find some short videos, making-ofs and other material that can’t be published on Instagram.
T-Rex has also been blogging for some time on www.scarpediemblog.com, with irregular posts published under the name ‘T-Rex Style’, together with both already-published Instagram photos and unedited images. There have also been two editions of the T-Calendar, the T-Rex table calendar which, although only small, is much loved by all the T-Friends.
So, briefly, the idea is to develop projects that go beyond Instagram, and that allow the T-Rex Adventures to reach the widest possible audience… then we’ll just have to see.
Which Instagram accounts do you like the best, and why?
T-Rex loves following all his friends’ Instagram feeds, but it’s really hard to pick any one in particular. There is so much creativity on Instagram that it’s always an amazing experience just to get lost in the feeds, browsing through the millions of images. So the easiest thing is simply to thank a few T-Friends who have been such a big help to T-Rex, such as Phil Gonzalez, founder of the international Instagramers organisation, who has often talked about T-Rex and is a great friend of his. Thanks also to the friends of Igersitalia, and, above all, to Ilaria Barbotti, president of the recently created Italian association, and to all the friends from towns all over Italy whom T-Rex has met at the various Instameets. To Giampiero Riva, who, in his newly published book ‘Smartphone photography’, has dedicated a chapter to T-Rex Adventures, and to Luca Anania, founder of Photo of the Day, on which to have your photo appear is the dream of every Instagramer. T-Rex also has many friends spread all over the world, and it is thanks to them that T-Rex Adventures continues to be such a wonderful photographic experience and an amazing adventure.
What about you? Are you a big follower of any particular Instagram accounts?
Which ones? I look forward to hearing from you!