Meet the man behind Boston’s hottest IG account: @brianmcw

By: - Tuesday, Apr 8, 2014 - 1:20am

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Haven’t we all, from time to time, questioned ourselves whether this is a good picture? Even photographers frequently don’t know how to think about pictures. We tend to say “I like it” and then, when it comes to “why is it nice,” often it goes unanswered. If vision is the ultimate end to end tool, I can’t help but wonder if the way we see, or better yet look at the world, could be frankly very subjective. Having said that, we can not ignore one exception to the rule: Brian!

Brian learned photography in the auto-didactic manner and there isn’t a day that goes by without experimenting on new angles and places or improving the style and texture of a picture. His gallery offers dynamic views of the city, illuminated with lyrical sensitivity. Lucky enough to spend some time with Brian, we are going to unfold the way he shaped his IG account through this last year and discover the aspects that have made him Boston’s favorite “Iger.”

To start, when was your “initiation” to Instagram? Were you into  photography before that?

Not really. I always thought it was weird that people obsessed over those little square photos on their phones. But then I started instagramming my walk to work last April, and now I am as obsessed as anyone.

Acorn Street by @brianmcw

What kind of camera do you use and what is your most used application before uploading a picture?

I shoot and edit all my photos with my Samsung S3 phone. Snapseed and VSCOcam are my favorite editing apps. To do selective color photos, I use an app called Color Splash Effect.

Everyday, through your IG account we see pictures from different places in Boston. How do you do that?

I live and work in Boston, and I spend a lot of time on the streets. I walk to and from my office. I am also a runner. So, in the course of a day, the chances of me seeing something visually interesting are pretty good.

King’s Chapel by @brianmcw

You currently have over 3,600 followers. What does it take to be a successful instagrammer?

Well, obviously you have to take good photos and be fairly prolific. But you also have to remember that it’s social media. You have to be a good follower. That’s easy for me because I follow some amazing photographers. It’s also important to use the right hashtags so that like-minded instagrammers find you and vice versa.

What is your favorite part of Boston? Where do you ‘rest’ your eyes?

The Esplanade is probably tops. It’s a wide open, exposed space, so you can see the sky and feel the wind. It has the best sunsets in Boston. I love watching the sailboats. And it’s even pretty in winter too, especially right after a snowfall. I also love the Christian Science Plaza. It’s one of the first places I take out-of-town visitors.

Sunset over the Charles by @brianmcw (mentioned above)

Christian Science Plaza by @brianmcw (also mentioned above)

Excluding Boston, what is your next favorite place for taking pictures?

I like to get out of the city on weekends to visit beaches on the north or south shores. I really like the Middlesex Fells, too, for walks in the woods. I am amazed at the natural beauty we have within an hour of Boston.

Middlesex Fells by @brianmcw (mentioned above)

Do you have any tips for taking better photos?

I’m still learning myself, but I would say that you can’t underestimate the importance of composition. How you crop a photo can make a huge difference. I also think that light is crucial. A beautiful sunny day is often the worst time to take good photos. I am not a fan of the filters built into Instagram. If you want to use preset filters, try VSCOcam, which has much more artistic presets. Or just edit the photo yourself to adjust the contrast, color, etc. Also, I listen to music when I’m out walking and shooting. I find it makes me more creative, like it helps liberate the right brain.

How valuable is the moment? Do you believe if you waited a bit longer or not as long would it make a difference?

I am not one these guys who goes out with a tripod and a specific shot in mind and then afterwards spends hours on Photoshop. Almost all my shots are spontaneous and minimally edited. My best shots are often things that happen in an instant and are gone, especially shots of people, like the guy I photographed who was riding a bike on the frozen Charles River, or things that I stumble on, like the time I spotted a discarded bouquet of flowers in the river. I think one of the big reasons people like Instagram is the “insta” part – the immediacy of knowing that someone just took a shot and uploaded it.

Riding on the frozen river by @brianmcw (mentioned above)

Discarded flowers in Charles River by @brianmcw (also mentioned above)

Do you ever worry that a day will go by and you won’t see anything worth photographing?

A little bit. Sometimes when I’m out, I have to remind myself to just let the photo come to me and not go forcing shots. That’s hard to do sometimes, especially in the winter when things are more barren. But amazing and beautiful things are constantly going on around us. We just have to be receptive to them.

Blue hour (time between sunset and complete darkness) or warm sun embracing brownstone neighborhoods?

Tough choice. Fortunately, I don’t have to choose. I shoot the brownstones when I walk to work in the morning, and I try to catch the blue hour on my way home! I love both parts of the day. Since I use a phone camera, low-light shots are tricky, so I am always happy when I take a halfway decent one.

Running along the Charles by @brianmcw

Do you consider yourself more of a photographer or an instagrammer?

Well, I am certainly not a professional photographer. I just do this as a hobby. I think I would probably suck at taking wedding photos or the other stuff that pros have to do. I guess I see myself as a “slice of life” photojournalist, which I suppose is just a fancy way of saying instagrammer.

Henri Cartier-Bresson said that “your first 10,000 pictures are the worst.” Do you believe that? Is there anything you might wish you did differently when you started capturing Boston publicly?

I love that quote! Let’s just say that some of the first photos in my gallery are probably not shots I would take the same way today. I feel like I am learning from experience and my style is evolving a bit. Assuming I don’t burn out, my shots two years from now are probably going to be different from what I am doing now.

Lately, we see your pictures in and a lot of IG communities, like @IgersBoston. Has it changed the way and the reason you take photographs now?

Not really. Like anybody, I love getting a wider audience for my photos. But I’ve learned not to expect anything. Some of my best shots have never been featured elsewhere, and some of the ones that have been featured are not necessarily shots I would have chosen.

Aerial shot of Boston from the Bunker Hill Monument by @brianmcw

A few months ago you founded a new IG community called @IGBoston. What were your initial thoughts before saying: “We need to create an IG community.” Do you feel it lived up to your expectations?

I felt like the area needed a forum for great shots that are artistic and not just the kind of thing you’d find in a tourism brochure. So our focus is a little different from some of the other local “best of” feeds. We’re also membership-based. Anyone can follow, but to have your photos featured at IGBoston, you first have to successfully take a membership challenge shot. Another thing that makes us a little unusual is that all three moderators vote on whether to feature a shot. Most feeds just have one person choosing the photo of the day. So far, we’ve been very happy with how things are going, and our members seem to be, too.

You mentioned you are obsessed with Instagram now. How often do you check your Instagram feed?

Too often. I don’t want to miss out on an awesome photo from someone I follow. And since I publish on average two shots per day, I am almost constantly getting feedback. It’s a positive addiction in many ways, but I don’t think this level of attention is sustainable. I am going to have to cut back. Starting tomorrow. I promise.

House on Commonwealth Avenue by @brianmcw

In direct sunlight or diffused daylight, rainy skies or cloudy horizons @brianmcw has the insight to deviate and reach out to the best perspective of a photo. Not only does he own one of the most wicked photo galleries in Instagram, but I promise you this.. there are still more awesome shots to be uploaded, memorable events to happen, productive Insta-meets to take place. So sit tight and stay tuned. We will keep you posted!

Below is some more of Brian’s work. To see everything just visit IG page here.