It’s a cold Saturday morning and we’re in Cafephilia in Moseley, meeting with McGooogle, the man behind @igersbirmingham.
BirminghamBolgger: BirminghamBlogger: OK, so to start our interview, why Instagram of all the platforms?
McGooogle: I’ve been using Instagram for about two years, probably more than two years. For me, I think Instagram is probably the most pure way of showing off photography and probably the simplest way of showing off photography as well. It’s normally Facebook, but there’s so much clutter that goes with it, Instagram is just purely images and nothing more. I quite like that about it, it’s quite simple. I think it also lends itself to people who are professional photographers, people who are just amateurs and people just messing around with their phone and I quite like that. For me, the thing about igersbirmingham; is that it’s not just about showing off the city, it’s also to try and get people to post more in Birmingham and do more photography in Birmingham. Whether it’s with a phone or with a digital SLR or something, I think Instagram’s quite a simple and easy to access medium for that.
BirminghamBolgger: I think you’ve already answered this; when did you start using Instagram ?
McGooogle: Yeah, I started using Instagram…my name is McGooogle, because my name is McGee, my friends call me Magoo and it kind of migrates from there, it’s a stupid name. But yeah, I mean I’ve been using it for about two years. I wasn’t even that into photography in fact and I just started using it, because I’d heard about it online….I think it was on a gadget website where I’d read about Instagram and I just started playing with it. I started using it more and more and more and more and then began to get more and more followers. Yeah, I got kind of addicted to it to be honest.. It is strangely addictive. In a previous job that I used to do..II used to travel quite a lot in the UK and in particular to London, so I was always in new situations where I could take photographs of just things that I come across. That’s one of the things that I like about Instagram, the fact it’s just very spontaneous. It’s good for capturing those little moments. For me, I used to do that for the past 10 years on cameras or on camera phones when they first started coming out. So I’ve got gigs and gigs of old photographs, which I couldn’t do anything with and Instagram provides that medium just for sharing that kind of stuff.
BirminghamBolgger: Great, and where did the idea for the hashtag #igersbirmingham and account name come from?
McGooogle: Well as far as I understand this is the official Instagram account for Birmingham UK. So if you look at Igers accounts in general, there’s accounts all over the world with the same logo. There’s the hashtag IGersUK, hashtag IGersLondon, Cumbria, Kent, Scotland. They are effectively kind of official Instagram accounts for different regions. So I deal with people who are on IGersUK as well. They send me information about competitions that are going on, where I can go to get prizes, so it is like a big community. It’s quite good actually in some ways, because it’s led me to link up…. that commonality of name and the commonality of the hashtag has allowed me to hook up with other Instagram accounts. So like Instagram Birmingham, Alabama; we’re going to do a collaboration quite soon. Birmingham, UK and Birmingham, Alabama and do like a group project. we’re working out the details but we’re probably going to do something where it’s a week long competition and then some kind of Insta-meet on the same day. Obviously different time zones, but something like that. So I think the fact that it’s the same hashtag is quite useful, but it wasn’t my name, I’ve just taken it off the account. I think I’ve kind of moved it forward quite a lot from what it was before.
BirminghamBolgger: So when was @igersbirmingham Instagram account born ?
McGooogle: I’d say probably about three years ago, but if you look at…so I took over in December and I had about 250 followers, now I have taken about 450 in about a month and a half. So it’s not really been attended that much over the past couple of years. That’s because I know the guys who used to run it are just so busy, because they’re professional photographers and run photo studios so they just haven’t got the time.
BirminghamBolgger: Was it difficult at the start, to get new followers and get things going?
McGooogle: Yeah, it was actually because there was not really a lot of people using the hashtag and when I first started I would look at the hashtag and see how many pictures had been posted and most days were like five or six. I was like how can I get this moving and get more interest in it. So I started doing this daily expose thing where I wanted to repost the three best photographers as I saw it in my humble opinion from the previous 24 hours. Through doing that, now when I look at that hashtag you now get about 20 or 30 photographs every single day being posted to that hashtag, which is not a lot but then for me to be able to go through them all and decide what photos I think are best or not, if it was anymore than 30 then it might be quite difficult, I might not have enough time for it. But no, it was quite hard and there are other competitive pages as well. So there’s one called BrumShots, which is run by a guy who I know and he’s a really nice guy but he said he finds it really hard with that as well because he was struggling to get a lot of pictures posted every single day. So that’s kind of died off and there’s more come to me as well now. It was difficult in the first place definitely to grow and I think a lot of that just through more activity. The more you put into it certainly and the more people see that there’s someone actually taking notice of what they’re doing, then the more people try and get involved.
BirminghamBolgger: Okay, I think I’ve seen this on one of the older posts, there was some kind of an actual meet-up in town. Can you tell me a bit more about it?
McGooogle: Okay, so one of the things that I wanted to do with the account was to almost create a bit of a social scene with, so try to get different photographers who perhaps had never met each other to get together and actually meet each other and do something. The InstaMeet is the way of doing that really. So just time, location, a kind of theme for the day and we just see how it goes effectively. So there was a worldwide InstaMeet on the first weekend in January and I only found out about it about seven days before, so I had to quickly try and organise something. So there wasn’t a lot of people who turned up for it because it was very short notice, but my plan will be to have one of those events every month moving forward. So the February one is going to be the Alabama and UK collaboration one and we’ll just try and create something which is regular so people can try and come along to it each month. So this is a good thing too, it’s quite good fun, especially if you get a nice mix of people to turn up and then go for a drink afterwards and just chat about photography and Birmingham and that kind of stuff.
BirminghamBolgger: Okay, so what are your plans for the @igersbirmingham account? Where would you like to take it?
McGooogle: I’d love to make it a heck of a lot larger than it is right now. If I look at IgersUK or IgersLondon, they’ve got thousands of followers and there’s spin off groups of that as well and they have regular events, almost every week they have meet ups, they do lunch time photo challenges . So I’d love to try and make it much more active than it is already, more things going on with it than there is already, more involvement from other people as well. I quite like the idea of sharing responsibility for the account with other users, so people who are as active on Instagram as I am who are quite interested in it and quite interested in the social side of it taking over perhaps and running the account for a week. I’d like to try and get to a stage where when people do competitions or take part in competitions, there’s something at the end of it, it’s not just a case of you post photographs and then they get reposted. I like the idea of some kind of prize being associated with it. I’ve got some contacts for getting that kind of stuff set up through IgersUK, so that’s probably going to happen quite soon. So really I’d like to make it a much more proactive thing and something that it’s not just me running, it’s much more of a collaborative thing with different people getting involved where possible. Ideally if I could turn it into a full time job or get paid that would be awesome, it’s never going to happen.
BirminghamBolgger: Okay, and are there any plans to expand to other platforms? Opening a Facebook page or…?
McGooogle: We’ve got Twitter already which effectively is just another medium for sharing and that actually works quite well, because I tend to think that a lot of people who are posting to the tag are also posting using Twitter as well, so we get a lot of reposts, a lot of favourites, a lot of retweets, which is good. I think Twitter works better from an actual communication point of view in spreading a message, whereas Instagram can be a little bit perhaps less omnipotent as Twitter. There’s more people on Twitter than there are on Instagram I would imagine. Facebook, I’ve not actually got that page set up yet. There is a Facebook page already for #igersbirmingham, but it’s linked to the guy who ran the account before so I need to set up my own one and link that to the Instagramers Birmingham account. To me, anything that opens it up to a wider audience of people who are involved in photography in Birmingham, so any way of spreading that message and getting people to realise that this is going on and that it’s hopefully not just something that’s like a flash in the pan. I want it to be something that goes on on a regular basis and grows and grows and grows and keeps growing. So yes, Facebook probably, I think that will be it. Well Google+; no. Foursquare and that kind of stuff; no. I think I’ll keep it to the core of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, those three mediums right there. Instagram obviously is the core platform, but Facebook and Twitter for just general communication and organisation and meet-up and that kind of stuff; it will be quite useful.
BirminghamBolgger: Cool. Do you use any other apps to edit the photos? Things like Tweegram, etc.
McGooogle: I never edit anyone’s photographs. I would never dream of editing them, I just repost them as they are effectively. Really simple, I use the Photo Repost App for that. For organising events I use Tweegram, which is a simple one for putting writing on the page and putting an image with a message or TextMask, but mainly Tweegram. But then for my photography side of things, I’ve got all these ones: Snapseed, Color Splash, Square Ready, Camera+, VSCO…I’ve got a couple of pages of apps for photography. I used to be very against people who used SLRs for photographs on Instagram, because I didn’t think it was about that, it was more about just using your phone to capture stuff. But over time I’ve eased on that and I quite like that now, because I do it myself in fact and I’m a bit of a hypocrite. That’s where Instagram comes into its own, it’s a good medium for professionals and amateurs to be honest and you can reach the same audience using the hashtags. It’s quite unique that way…well not unique, but it works quite well. Things like Flickr are good but more for a professional audience and I don’t want to limit it just to professional photographers, I want it to be open to people that are amateurs and people who are running their own studios for example or do it as a full time job. If you look at the people whose photographs I reposts, quite often if you look at their page, they may not be always taking arty photographs, quite often they might just be selfies but then they might take one really nice photograph, which I think does have to be shared. Other days you’ll see people like Tim Cornbill, posting to the hash tag with some amazing shots of the city.. So you get a spectrum of different skills, different levels of photography.
BirminghamBolgger: We’ve mentioned a couple of apps, what type of phone are you using at the moment?
McGooogle: iPhone 5.
BirminghamBolgger: Any cameras?
McGooogle: It’s the Canon 600D. 15 in the lens and 18-200. But better snaps, these were one of my favourite. Really simple software to use, a bit of light room as well, not Photoshop, but anyway taken to that level.
BirminghamBolgger: And in terms of your other account, @McGooogle, how much time do you spend on it?
McGooogle: A lot less than I used to because I have to spend more time on the Instagramers Birmingham one. It’s funny, I actually don’t think that many of my shots are of Birmingham my photographs on McGoogle are more from…like I travel a lot for work, I’m always abroad for my job, so my photographs are always of me being abroad or places that I’m visiting. But I used to be very, very active on that account, but because of the igersbirmingham account, I’ve ended up spending a bit more time on that and less time on my McGooogle account, which is a bit of a shame. But that will pick up, I’ve just moved house, so I’ve been a bit busy with that. So that will pick up over the next month or so and I’ll get back into posting to that.
BirminghamBolgger: How often do you check your Instagram?
McGooogle: Every hour probably, all the time. More than Facebook, way more than Facebook.
BirminghamBolgger: And apart from #igersbirmingham, what other hashtags are you using?
McGooogle: Well there’s so many I could use to be honest. To try and get different people who are posting in Birmingham I use #Birmingham, #BirminghamUK, #Brum. I’m busy trying to look for hashtags of people that are posting in Birmingham to try and cover all those potential areas really and different aspects that people use, because not everyone uses hashtag #igersbirmingham. So for example, what I’ll do is go through everyone who posts on the #Birmingham and follow them to try and get them to get involved. Same with the hashtag Brum or BirminghamUK as well. I think that actually a lot of people that hashtag igersbirmingham already know what happens on a daily basis and know about the account. So they know there’s something going to happen there and you can tell by the type of photographs you get. Whereas if you look at the ones that you get on hashtag Brum or hashtag BirminghamUK it’s slightly different. But that’s not a problem, that’s fine, I want to get those people involved as well and I’m not a snob about photography or anything like that, I’m open to anything. So that’s pretty much it right now. If it was maybe black and white, I would use hashtag #blackandwhite, hashtag #B&W, hashtag #westmidlands, but I’m trying to keep it Birmingham focussed right now. I don;t know, it’s really a case of as a I come across more and more hashtags I’ll try and add them and try and build up them up more.
BirminghamBolgger: Okay and what advice would you give to people, how can they get involved with igersbirmingham?
McGooogle: Just get into a habit of posting on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but just get into the habit of posting pictures of Birmingham, pictures of people in Birmingham using the hashtag #igersbirmingham. They can contact me on Instagram or on Twitter if they want to know more about what’s happening or if they’ve got any plans too or if they want to get involved in actually running the account as well. Yeah, I look at that hashtag multiple times a day so there’s no way I’m going to miss anything anyone posts, definitely.
BirminghamBolgger: So the best way to get spotted is to use the #igersbirmingham hashtag?
McGooogle: Yeah definitely, that’s the simplest way.
BirminghamBolgger: Okay, I think we’ve covered all questions. Anything you’d like to add?
McGooogle: I want to open it up a little bit so it’s not just pictures of Birmingham. So quite soon there’s going to be a competition, which is going to be Birmingham people portraits and do like a a portrait picture of just people in the Birmingham area, because I’ve seen some really nice candid shots and scenes in Birmingham of like maybe some soldiers recruiting for the army and they’ve been really, really nice actually. I’ve limited it just to pictures of the city, so I want to try and open it up a little bit more into people as well and that’s why it’s being developed through competitions and then through themes and that kind of stuff as well. I guess that it’s only going to get more active.
BirminghamBolgger: So it’s not just the people of the city itself, but also everything that’s happening in the city?
McGooogle: Yeah absolutely.
BirminghamBolgger: Thank you very much for your time.