It was 2011, and Instagram was my little secret. Nobody in real life, other than James – knew that I used the app. Nobody I knew in real life seemed to know about the app. And that’s just the way I liked it. I could post photos and express myself in any way I pleased, without looking over my shoulder and worrying about who was watching. Not that I posted anything controversial or all that exciting mind – but it was freeing, and I loved it. I was addicted to the instant feedback that people gave me on my photos. I was amazed when strangers from across the world chose to follow my feed and chit chat with me. Indra from Mexico. Mare and Janice from LA. Maria from Brisbane. It was a whole new concept to me, and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Then there was Toronto-based Kael Rebick, who you’ll likely know as @punkodelish. She was the very first person on Instagram who I quietly referred to as a friend. Here in 2017, I truly couldn’t care less as to what people might think about me calling those I’ve gotten to know online my friends. But then – it was such a new thing, to me at least – that I guess I was worried about raised eyebrows etc etc.
I followed Kael for a little while before she followed me. She had 4K followers, which at the time seemed HUGE. I remember being totally delighted when one day, out of the blue she followed me back. I was properly chuffed.
Six years on and we are firm friends, and for me it has been just wonderful to see her fly to dizzying heights on Instagram. She travels the world on the back of this app. From Paris to London to Turkey to Australia, she jets around like nobody’s business showcasing destinations to her 450K plus following.
In 2013 we met for breakfast in Manhattan on her birthday and her travels have meant that we also got to spend an afternoon together in York, thanks to a UK trip that she took the summer before last.
When I decided to do this series of interviews with prolific Instagrammers, Kael was the first person I thought of who I knew I wanted to feature. She is the original person who really inspired me on Instagram and she continues to do so. I really am one proud friend.
She’s also massively discerning about what she’s achieved. Not a show off in the slightest. In fact, so much the opposite that I had to go back to her with more questions and request more detail! “Give us the gossip on your success,” I said to her. But of course, that’s not Kael’s style and THAT, ladies and gents, is why she’s as brilliant and successful as she is.
Describe your life in a nutshell.
Hmm. It’s pretty unpredictable these days. I travel a lot so I see many airports. When I’m home my life is quiet. Mostly family, dog, catching up on TV and sleep.
Tell us about your love affair with Instagram including where it began for you.
I was taking pictures and posting them on Facebook mostly. My cousin told me about this app where people share photos – with strangers. I thought that was for nerds… but that was almost exactly six years ago and I have scarcely taken one day off.
You travel all over the world thanks to your beautiful Instagram, tell us about that.
It’s been incredible. So many unbelievable opportunities, all thanks to an app on my phone.
What’s your favourite place that you’ve visited?
Every place I’ve visited is special. I feel so lucky and I have so many favourites!
Turkey was my first favourite, it was one of the first trips I ever took and it was my very first working trip to Europe. There was a huge group, 14 of us and it was for two weeks – which is way longer than I’d ever do now and I often wonder whether I’d like it now as much as I did then, but it was just such an incredible experience.
Turkey was the first place that I wanted to go to after seeing it on Instagram, before that I had no idea what it was like. That is one of the best things about Instagram – being able to see the world through the eyes of people who live in these places. On the trip we were guests of the Turkish president and we were shown around by people who lived there, but also by Instagrammers, which still isn’t something that always happens on trips like this.
It was amazing because when you are shown around by Instagrammers, they know exactly what it is you want to see and photograph. They know that you need to be out at sunrise and sunset for example. It was so well organised for taking pictures and the photos that we got were incredible. It felt like every place we went was better than the last – it was like the cradle of civilisation there. The people were amazing, the food was amazing – I’ve been to so many unbelievable places – but I have a real fondness when I look back on that trip. And it’s funny because a lot of people who I went there with, who had done more trips before I did and have done so many after, still also feel that way about it.
What’s the craziest/most exciting/extravagant opportunity you’ve had on the back of Instagram?
I touched an iceberg once! I was on a trip in Newfoundland which is a place that makes you feel like you belong – mainly down to the wonderful people. It also really doesn’t feel like you’re in Canada – it has a European feel, the people enjoy their lives the way they do in Europe with food and drink and music and they are so welcoming – it’s like being on another planet almost, it just has a special energy there.
We’d been to Fogo Island which is one of the most beautiful places in the world and were on our way back to the mainland. We (our group) got in this little boat and it was all misty and these icebergs just seemed to come out of nowhere! It was just amazing to be next to them and to be able to touch them.. When I think of icebergs I think of the Arctic, it’s not something I ever expected I could be that close to.
When I first began following you, you had around 4K followers. You now have a following nearing half a million! What’s that like?
Honestly? It still feels like 4k felt back then.
Describe your photography style.
I don’t really know what I’m doing…
What’s next for you?
I’ve literally just returned from a trip to Scotland which I was so excited about as I’d wanted to go there forever! It was brilliant – I was there with Visit Britain and got to go to the Edinburgh Fringe as well as having the opportunity to do lots of landscape photography – I loved everything about it. It was a very busy trip!
I’ve actually got another three trips to Europe in the next three months including another potential trip to the UK in the fall, which I’m thrilled about because I love Europe so much.
Instagram accounts you admire?
My favourite right now is @seanwelchfoto. I’m always drawn to accounts that aren’t like mine.
You live in Toronto – what are your top five places to visit there?
- Flatiron building/St Lawrence Market.
- Kensington Market/China Town.
- Art Gallery of Toronto.
- High Park.
- Queen West.
What would your Instagram followers be surprised to learn about you?
Probably my age…
Where did your Instagram handle @punkodelish come from?
My mom called my sister that when she was a baby.
With big fat heartfelt thanks to my lovely friend Kael. Can’t wait to see you oh so soon! All photos featured are copyright of Kael Rebick @punkodelish.
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