Photographer on wife wearing kebaya top backwards: We wanted to show its beauty

He is famous for photos of his wife leading him by the hand across the world.

But after Russian photographer Murad Osmann uploaded a photo of his German-born wife Nataly wearing a nyonya kebaya top backwards when they were in Singapore last month, he received an earful from Singaporeans.

The photo, which received over 209,000 likes on Mr Osmann's Instagram page, was slammed for its seeming ignorance. One netizen called it "utterly disrespectful" to the Peranakan culture.

In an e-mail interview with The New Paper, Mrs Osmann said: "We respect all cultures and didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. We just wanted to show the beauty of this outfit, which is why I wore it backwards on purpose. Otherwise how could we highlight the amazing front of the kebaya?"

The couple became accidental Internet stars in 2011 after Mr Osmann uploaded a picture of his then-girlfriend Nataly during their first holiday together in Barcelona, Spain.

"I wanted to take a photo of Nataly but she got shy and turned, grabbing my arm and dragging me forward. That photo was accidental but we really liked it. I posted it on Instagram, created a hashtag and that was how it began," said Mr Osmann, 30, who shoots with professional cameras and wide-angle lenses.

Since then, his #FollowMeTo series on his Instagram page has attracted over 3.6 million followers.

The pair was in town last month to promote the new Singapore Invites Instagram initiative by the Singapore Tourism Board. They also graced an exhibition of the photos from their #FollowMeTo series at Raffles Hotel. The initiative encourages people all over the world to invite their loved ones to Singapore.

This was the couple's second time in Singapore, and they shot more of their signature photos at Gardens by the Bay, Haw Par Villa and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, with Mrs Osmann in various ethnic outfits.

It was the photo taken at Haw Par Villa that raised the hackles of some netizens.

Mrs Osmann, a travel blogger and journalist, maintains that wearing the kebaya that way was done only for the #FollowMeTo series.

"I wore it the right way in other photos on my own Instagram account and the FollowMeTraveller account but the only exception was made for Murad's account," she said.

She has worn outfits backwards in other instances, like when the couple travelled to Jordan and Abu Dhabi.

"Very often, the front details of an outfit are more interesting than the back, so I wear the outfit backwards to make the picture more intriguing," said Mrs Osmann.

The couple married in June after dating for over three years.

REACTIONS

When asked if he has received negative reactions to those photos, he said: "Usually, people pay more attention to the beauty of the places. But I read all the comments on my photos so it was logical to explain the true reason behind the decision."

In fact, negative reactions are the least of their worries.

"Sometimes, security guards stop us when it is forbidden to shoot," Mr Osmann said.

"So we have only five seconds to get the picture. We had to run away from the police in Milan and Hong Kong as we were shooting in forbidden places."


This article was first published on November 26, 2015.
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