He’s the creative mind behind one of our favourite Instagram accounts on the www. With self-described “daily drops”, William Ndatila offers a feed that’s appreciated by Gucci and Katy Perry alike, but goes far beyond beauty or mere aesthetics. Delving deep into the process of selecting, posting and reposting, we chatted to the IG provocateur about the dos and don’ts of running williamcult.
Could you explain the process behind selecting each image you post? Do you actively search out new posts?
The process is mostly driven by what I encounter during the day physically or digitally. It could be a book in a shop window or research I’m doing online. It’s what grabs my attention and it’s lead by intuition. I don’t always have to like what I post or understand it. I trust that it’s useful to one or more followers on my feed. That’s the reason I started it. I saw people glued to their phones in downtown NYC and at that point people were only posting their coffee cups or holiday pictures. That kind of depressed me so I wanted to use Instagram in a different way. I started sharing my files of visual research.
What’s your main source of inspiration?
There isn’t a main one as I don’t want to place a limit but I’d say that Instagram can be divided into two main groups: ‘archivist’ and ‘hyper present’. The archivists, faced with the information flow online (images, memes, music, films), attempt to order it by curating it on the basis of their taste or whatever guideline they choose. The hyper present types are faced with the flow of life and events around them and use it as material, effectively turning themselves, their surroundings or family pet into content. I am more of an archivist; I don’t like turning my life into content, as it would warp my engagement with the flow of life. But I enjoy and admire people who do it well.
Do you keep track of who follows you? Are there any famous followers you were surprised by?
I don’t obsess about it and I try not to let it influence what I share. I’m grateful for anybody (famous or not) who has given me a bit of space on his or her feed by following me so I try to keep it interesting. I guess Katy Perry was a surprise and every time she likes a post I get an onslaught of her fan base commenting, asking why she liked something that ‘weird’. It’s hilarious.
Amongst the humour on your page you also feature some uneasy—but important—political and social issues. Do you feel like Instagram is a successful channel in making changes to society?
I added that layer because it felt important. We have all turned ourselves into ‘media’ outlets in a way… broadcasting our lives, visuals and thoughts. It’s good to raise social issues and start a debate. I have seen social or political issues that started on Tumblr make their way to the mainstream and change perspectives. It takes a lot more than an Instagram or social media post to change things but it’s a starting point. At the same time we cannot dismiss the power of social media when you look at fake news manufactured to sway electoral votes.
Do you see yourself as a curator?
At this stage I am experimenting with a new platform and new kind of media. I feel that the work of curators is a lot more complex and the word has been drained of its meaning in the digital, postmodern era.
How does your Instagram content relate to you as a person?
I guess I’m the common denominator in all the choices made so maybe there is a thread in the seemingly chaotic feed. It’s neither personal nor impersonal. I might share something for its artistic value although it is not part of my personal taste. My feed still surprises me when I scroll through it, which is kind of nice. It’s also not driven by likes.
As a fashion designer, how do you feel about the impact of social media on the industry?
There is a shift in how ‘taste’ is disseminated. It used to be a vertical structure where someone at the top would past it down. Now it’s more of a horizontal structure. Kim Kardashian on the cover of Vogue had people up in arms but her followers are larger than the entire Vogue’s readership combined so who needs whom? We are entering an age that is based on what you might call the economy of ‘attention’. Attention is a currency. I don’t necessarily see it as a good or bad thing—that’s irrelevant. The other thing it has affected is how people shop so labels and retailers have to adjust. In terms of dressing or shopping, people are picking up styling ideas from other places than fashion magazines. Which raises the question: what is the role of fashion magazines now? How can they evolve? At the end of the day the digital era is bringing about a new world where the old systems are being challenged. It was the same with the invention of the printing press, which brought about things like books for the masses, literacy, school systems. It created jobs for writers, journalists and shaped the world as we know it. It ended the oral system in the West. It’s still early days, we don’t know what changes will come about. Technological changes have a way of affecting societies, that’s what people need to remember or be open to.
You made some memes for Gucci. Were you surprised that such a high-end fashion label would choose to use this as a marketing tool?
Not really; I played with that notion during my Masters year at Central Saint Martins (to the horror of some of my tutors). It was a question of time and Gucci had the courage to explore the language of memes before everybody else did. What surprised me was the outrage from the memers saying it was an appropriation of sacred Internet culture. That’s a false moral outcry. To think of the Internet as a place is false. It’s a tool, like electricity, the printing press or radio airwaves. There is no ‘culture’ as such but a history. A history of how it’s evolving, and people are using it. It will keep evolving long after we are gone. At the end of day, what is a meme but a slogan?
' Black Dolls' my final MA project for Central Saint Martins shot by @campbelladdy . Thank you to the team that helped me put it together: Hair @jemnomb makeup by @ammydrammeh model @jesseghartley from @niiagency. Thank you to @creativereview for the cover. [ fanzine and print coming up soon at CULT11AD.]
How do you think social media will develop in the next 10 years?
I cannot answer that. Ten years is a long time in Internet time but I would say that a good place to start is to think about the expanding and far reaching power of Silicone Valley, how an application like Instagram in a few years can change the power structures of fashion, media or affect people’s behaviour. How an application like Tinder or Grindr can change our concept of relationships, sex life etc. Social media is the tree, not the forest. The impact of Silicon Valley and tech corporations, as networks are getting more and more complex, will be enormous. I read somewhere that artists are immune to technological leaps, they just harness it and use for their own end. Maybe it’s time for people to think like artists.
Do you have a favourite Instagram post/account?
At this stage I tend to be more of an ‘archivist’ posting references and memes so as a result I admire people who use themselves as content, artists like @beigetype or @jenkinvanzyl. But lately I have been obsessed with artist @rogerballen.