It All Started with a Nice Pair of Gams

Holy Moly yesterday Instagr.am hit 15o million photos and 7 million. More impressive is that they did this with just four employees and it has only been around for ten months!  I couldn’t help but feel slightly responsible for those stats. Well, for at least 379 of the 150 million photos.  I love Instagr.am. I talk about it A LOT on this blog and on Twitter. So much so that I had one old friend ask if I was working for them and another ask if I could hook their wife up with a job. Sorry guys, I am just a FanGoil. (My answer to FanBoi and Goil is also the very cute way Jack pronounces Girl)

The reason I love Instagr.am is not just for the simplicity of the interface or its filters, social share and geolocation features, but because it re-ignited a creative outlet in me that I had let go dormant. It all started one day with these two pairs of gams.

Mannequin legsThey live down the street from me and I have admired them over the last 6 years. They are there when I drive by in my car, when I take the boys for stroll to get coffee, or when I go for a jog. Sometimes their outfits change with the seasons, but they are always colorful. At first I have to admit they scared me a bit, but then I grew to love them. They have become a fixture in my daily jaunts and a topic in my conversations with my three year old. He often asks me “Why the people are doing that? Why can’t we see their heads?” I am pretty sure he thinks they are real and to be honest if one day they were gone I think we would both be sad.

If you are Portlander, you know this past spring was a long one filled with sog and bog. I had a rough year and  the weather had me in a bit of an uncharacteristic funk. As as I walked by the legs that spring morning, I noticed the sun was finally shining a bit. Their already loud ensembles seemed to stand out just a bit more to me and the silliness of it made me feel happy and hopeful. For some reason I decided after 6 years to snap a pic of those familiar gams. I used my regular camera app on my iPhone, but when I got home I decided I would try to load it into Instagr.am.  I had downloaded the app awhile before but had never used it. I imported the picture, messed with the filters and made it my profile picture.

As I thought more about those legs later that day, I started to think about all the weird and wonderful things we all pass in our lives each day without even taking them in. We don’t notice them or we become desensitized to them. Especially if you live in a creative town like Portland. Man there is weird everywhere up in this joint and it is so inspiring. Sure sometimes that inspiration comes in the form of a chuckle, sometimes it sparks a political thought, sometimes it angers and sometimes like in my case it brings hope. The important thing is that the inspiration is there, that we live in a town that thrives on creativity and inspiration and uniqueness. It is the kind of place you want to be and to raise your children.  Trust me I have lived in the cookie cutter McMansion part of Florida where you had to pay a $50 fee to get landscape approval from the HOA in order to plant a $10 plant in your yard. Now that is weird…the bad kind of weird.

So, since I realized how lucky I was to have all this weird at my fingertips it was my responsibility to share all things Lovingly Weird in Portland.  Hence an idea was born. A tumblr perhaps? Yep, that is the perfect format for sharing pictures hence  PDXWeirdo arrived on the scene.

It started slow with just a picture here or there, some days none, others I would just re-blog a weird photo someone else took.  But as I wandered around Portland, I found myself first looking up, then looking down then left and then right.  It didn’t matter if I was on a walk,  a bike ride or even in the car, it became a hunt.  It felt like this whole underground explosion of creative weirdness had just started coming out of the woodwork. The truth however, was that it was not just suddenly appearing, it was that I was just noticing things for the first time. I was actually stopping to smell the weird.

At first I thought PDXWeirdo might become a novelty and that I would run out of weird to document.  I thought if I got bored perhaps I could just get it going and let others take over via their own weird submissions. But I haven’t gotten bored, not even close.  If anything this process has become my own personal tour guide of Portland and allowed me to see parts of the city  I may never have explored.  I have friends giving me tips on where to spot the weird, people submitting photos, and many people re-blogging what I find.

Yet the most important thing it has done for me is remind me how much I love photography. I have always dreamed of being able to take great photos. I even took photography classes when we lived in Tampa, but I always hit a block when it came time to shoot. I always tried to0 hard to find that cool obscure picture or the perfect in motion shot and none of them ever quite panned out. True I was using a Manual SLR which is much more difficult to master, but I just didn’t like the results and got frustrated.

Instagra.am and digital photography has changed that for me. My followers don’t expect me to be a perfect photographer, in fact the ones that are slightly off centered or a little blurry tend to get more likes than the posed pristine photos.  I get encouragement each day from people I have never met in person and the best part is I get to give encouragement to. Instagr.am makes me want to go out and take more of the world in. I now find time each day to seek the lovingly weird and to share the inspiration.

Instagr.am is one of the best examples of a positive mobile community/social media app that I have seen. I honestly can’t remember ever seeing a negative comment on a photo. I am certain they exist, but they must be so few and far between the they have never shown up on my feed or amongst my followers/followees. People so far have a weird respect for each other on Instagr.am. Perhaps the same weird that make Portland so unique and lovely has infiltrated Instagr.am?

If you like what you see on My Instalife page, go ahead follow me on Instagram. I am @sherylmaloney.

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