Instagram and appreciation of (un)noticed built heritage

“By putting myself at people’s feet, I can bring beauty up to their level which causes them to look down.”

Ralph G. Brancaccio

Instagram is all about ‘pretty’ pictures. Yes, to a certain degree. All depends who you follow and what you photograph as an Instagrammer. For me Instagram does something more than just showing off the world filtered. It teaches (and helps) people to notice and appreciate the good, the bad and the ugly of our built heritage. By built heritage here I mean architecture most of all, but also random and ‘not important’ features of our daily neighbourhoods.

A passionate Instagrammer myself, I follow more and more accounts every week that have this thing with… those ‘not important’ features. It might be a result of the algorithms behind the ‘suggested’ accounts, the expanding network of ‘thinking alike’ people I connect with online, but it also could be a trend. And I hope a trend that will stay with us for longer as it does us good. If you have an Instagram account, I presume you spend a lot of time looking at your smart screen as it is. Many of us do. We are busy, life goes fast and we don’t stop and look around as much anymore. Traffic lights would be an exception, but that’s a life saver! But there is a growing number of people who do stop and look, and notice the unnoticed built heritage around. Examples?

Dublin Ghost Signs

A fabulous Instagram (as well as a blog/website and Twitter account) that ‘captures Dublin’s history through its old and fading signs’ using hashtag #dublinghostsigns. This growing collection is a feast for anyone who loves Dublin, old Dublin, forgotten Dublin and typography, lettering, design, advertising, and so on (for more insights into this beautiful part of the City’s heritage watch The Gentleman of Letters and get your hands on Antonia Hart‘s book ‘Ghost Signs of Dublin‘). The Dublin Ghost Signs’s Instagram account has 3,400 followers and is growing fast. This is certainly more than just a trend. There are many ghost-sign hunters around the world and the web is a perfect place to showcase and share their trophies. Proof? Over 22,718 images on Instagram tagged #ghostsign.

 

Apollo. #DublinGhostSigns

A photo posted by Dublin Ghost Signs (@dublinghostsigns) on

 

Iveagh Trust Public Baths. #DublinGhostSigns

A photo posted by Dublin Ghost Signs (@dublinghostsigns) on

 

Cummins and Sons. Plumbing and Paints. #DublinGhostSigns

A photo posted by Dublin Ghost Signs (@dublinghostsigns) on

 

I have this thing with floors

Currently there is 141,521 pictures on Instagram tagged with a hashtag #ihavethisthingwithfloors. The account is curated from Amsterdam by Pien van Wijmen, Josha Jansen & Edith Beurskens, and it became extremely popular among those who… look down. In over a year since launching, the trio shared 653 posts that attracted over 413,000 followers. Almost a half a million people out there enjoy looking at floors (!) you might think. I think almost a half a million people started noticing what’s under their feet. And it is full of colours, patterns and history!

 

Regram @kathrynparapak #ihavethisthingwithfloors A photo posted by I Have This Thing With Floors (@ihavethisthingwithfloors) on

 

Regram @kseniajasvina #ihavethisthingwithfloors A photo posted by I Have This Thing With Floors (@ihavethisthingwithfloors) on

 

Regram @azizmud #ihavethisthingwithfloors A photo posted by I Have This Thing With Floors (@ihavethisthingwithfloors) on

 

I have this thing with doors

Although there are a few accounts aspiring to succeed in the world of doors on Instagram, the hashtag #ihavethisthingwithdoors seems to be most successful on its own. Over 5,529 pictures of doors tagged around the world don’t look too impressive against the floors, but the number is growing. There is a Dublin project called ‘The doors of Dublin‘ run by Eleanor Costello that has an impressive number of 7,553 followers. Not bad for a ‘side project’. The next time you knock on the door in Dublin, have a look first. And if you decide to share it on Instagram, use hashtag #thedoorsofdublin.

 

Door in #Dublin8. #dublindoors #thedoorsofdublin #doorsofdublin #blue A photo posted by Emmy C (@emmy__c) on

 

#dublin #dublin2 @elevatepr @thedoorsofdublin #blackandwhite #climbing #plants #georgian #architecture #doors #thedoorsofdublin A photo posted by Karolina Badzmierowska (@karolinabadz) on

 

 

I have this thing with the old doors

Yes, the doors again but older.

 

 

I have this thing with windows

Similarly to the doors’ situation, the hashtag #Ihavethisthingwithwindows is the one to follow as the account I have this thing with windows is only a newborn. It’s Dublin alter ego, The Windows of Dublin has just been born so watch this space. There is a lot of windows in our city worth capturing so get out there, Instagram and tag #thewindowsofdublin.

 

#ihavethisthingwithwindows … U know… A photo posted by Sonja Maria Rettensteiner (@sonjamariarettensteiner) on

 

 

#ihavethisthingwithwindows

 

A photo posted by Sarah (@saaraani) on

 

#regram from @aislingeyre #TheWindowsOfDublin A photo posted by The Windows Of Dublin (@thewindowsofdublin) on

 

 

I have a thing for walls

Yes, the walls also are being noticed and re-discovered via Instagram. You might think all walls are… just walls, but believe me, the minute you discover the variety of textures, colours, patterns and designs of over 25,116 walls around the world tagged #ihaveathingforwalls, you will see what it is all about. The account I have a thing for walls has 2,505 followers, but there is a competition around the corner: I have this thing with walls with 848 followers. Talking about corners… I have a thing with corners & I have this thing with corners. There are many variations of the above as well as other things to have with:

#ihavethisthingswithstairs 

#ihavethisthingwithground 

#ihavethisthingwithroads 

#ihavethisthingwithroofs 

#ihavethisthingwithbricks 

#ihavethisthingwithceilings 

#ihavethisthingwithbuildings 

#ihavethisthingwithsigns 

 

Recently I have this thing with manhole covers. As weird as it sounds, there is a quite a number of images on Instagram tagged #manholecover: 26,176, #manhole: 65,664, #manholeunited: 10,426, #manholecovers: 3,427, #manholes: 5,445 and many others. Only the above add up to 111,138 images of manholes that are so common on our streets and pavements that we rarely notice them.

The very first manhole cover ‘I noticed’ and decided to capture was in Berlin last year. This famous manhole cover was designed by product designer Marcus Botsch (1961-2012) and installed by Berliner Wasserbetriebe across Berlin since 2006. I witnessed using one of them by an artist to make prints on t-shirts for very amused passersby. The idea isn’t new as you can see in this video made by a conceptual artist Ralph G. Brancaccio for his Paris 2010 exhibition.

 

 

Since my Berlin discovery I look down much more and I see a whole new world of designs, shapes and patterns under my feet. Walking around Georgian and Victorian Dublin made me more curious about this overlooked industrial and domestic heritage of our City. To start off learning more I recommend a very interesting blog post by John Mahon featured on The Locals. For more information about historic structures and their features look up the Advice Series publications by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. You will be amazed how much you normally ‘don’t see’.   Walking, and looking, around the cities can be disturbing by the flood of ads, signs and visual mess altogether. And if you add to that online distractions at our fingertips, then this entire built heritage world disappears in the urban horizon. Instagram, although one of online distractions for some, is a way to discover, explore and capture this hidden heritage world for others. The next time you stop and look at those beautifully crafted tiles under your feet, or that concrete wall bursting with textures, or that charming doors welcoming at a porch, or a hidden ghost sign around the corner – that will make me smile. (Appreciation of built heritage) mission accomplished.

“By putting myself at people’s Instagram feed, I can bring beauty up to their level which causes them to look around.”

Ralph G. Brancaccio paraphrased by me


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