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Sexy couple, great photos -- Viral 'Follow Me To' project comes to Hong Kong

By Alisha Haridasani, for CNN
June 6, 2014 -- Updated 0635 GMT (1435 HKT)
The "Follow Me To" photography project that made social media waves last year has been commissioned for a tourism campaign in Hong Kong. Here, Natalia Zakharova leads her photographer boyfriend Murad Osmann through the city's Global Geopark. The "Follow Me To" photography project that made social media waves last year has been commissioned for a tourism campaign in Hong Kong. Here, Natalia Zakharova leads her photographer boyfriend Murad Osmann through the city's Global Geopark.
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So that's what they look like
Behind the scenes
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 'Follow Me To' now has 1.1 million followers on Instagram
  • HK Tourism Board hopes to attract big-spending Russians with new campaign
  • Future projects include a series of travel videos

(CNN) -- It's a sweltering May afternoon in Hong Kong.

In Tsim Sha Tsui, facing the city's iconic skyline, a Russian couple poses -- a slender woman with impeccable style drags her boyfriend by the hand toward the skyscrapers across the harbor.

Nearby, a hoard of journalists takes their own pictures of this couple taking pictures.

It's all for a perfect Instagram shot.

This is the couple behind, or in front of, the "Follow Me To" project.

The images of Natalia Zakharova leading her photographer boyfriend, Murad Osmann, toward exotic, picturesque locations around the globe took off last year, and Osmann's Instagram account now has more than 1.1 million followers.

All the images are taken in the same style: from Murad's perspective showing just his extended arm and Natalia's back against beautiful backdrops.

The project started accidentally in 2011 during a holiday in Barcelona when Natalia got frustrated with snap-happy Murad, who was pre-occupied taking pictures of the city.

"This is just a hobby," says Natalia. "We're not thinking about being famous at all."

Osmann and Zakharova take their creativity to Hong Kong.
Osmann and Zakharova take their creativity to Hong Kong.

Will Russia follow them?

Now, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has commissioned the pair to lure more Russian tourists to the city.

Out of the 54 million tourist arrivals in Hong Kong last year, 223,664 came from Russia. That's a 20% increase from 2012.

Russians spend more than any other tourists (HK$9,258 ($1,190) per person, on average), including those from Mainland China (HK$8,937), according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

The couple have taken their signature images at some of Hong Kong's top tourist spots -- such as the Choi Hung Estate -- as part of the Tourism Board's social media campaign.

The first two images were revealed over the last week and the rest will be released one by one leading up to winter, a key travel season for Russians, explains a HK Tourism Board spokesperson.

Both Zakharova and Osmann have day jobs back in Moscow -- she's a journalist and he's a film director -- that they try to juggle with this continuously expanding project.

"It's really hard to balance our jobs and all the travel," says Murad. "We plan ahead -- we speak to the local photographers and communities for recommendations. Then we have to take weekends out.

"We have to take up to 20 dresses with us [for Natalia] to see what looks best and all the equipment. It's not an easy project -- it's not a holiday."

In future we can expect to see short travel video guides from the couple, comprising behind-the-scenes footage of the creation of each image as well as walking viewers through each destination's history and culture.

"It's not a commercial project," says Natalia. "Each city, each country has its own unique character. We love all of the places."

Alisha Haridasani is a freelance journalist based in Hong Kong where she works for a variety of print and broadcast institutions.

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