Are you on Instagram? No? Neither was I for years. I resisted it because, like many photographers, I was wary of the way Instagram owned the copyright to all the images posted on it. It was like blindly signing your rights over to an organisation you knew little about.
Lately, however, I've become enamoured with the beauty of 'Insta' because it's a captivating insight into people's lives, only without the negativity and criticism that sometimes goes on in society and social media. I don't know about you but I'm trying to live a more balanced, positive, productive and happier life, and for some reason (well, actually it's probably not that surprising), images of people's gardens, a table set for 10 under a grapevine-covered arbour, a pile of new books, a bouquet of fresh flowers, snapshots of travel, a just-finished illustration, a newly decorated room, and even someone's too-cute dog will make me joyful and also—this is the strange thing—surprisingly grateful for life.
You see, Instagram celebrates the charming minutiae of our days; the beauty of our world, rather than the ugliness of society. It's a visual reminder to appreciate the things we see, and the things we have, and the things we're lucky enough to experience, too. It also encourages us to appreciate others as well. I love seeing Kerrie Hess' latest prints and Nichole Robertson's Parisian pix, both of whom I follow.
Some people do carefully composed 'flatlays' or still lifes (tagged #flatlay), which are the new and 'in' thing on Insta, but I prefer the spontaneous shots: the 'outtakes' of our days that would never make it into a family photo album but still offer uplifting glimpses into lives well lived. Happy lives. Joyful lives. Lives that make us smile.
For the past week, I've been posting on Instagram, and I have to tell you, I'm converted!
It's a great way to post travel pix and tips and to exchange information with other followers, but more than that, it's a great reminder to look at life with a fresh vision. Sometimes we need to put down that expensive camera, stop over-composing, and just take a shot that moves us, a shot that simply makes us happy.
Sometimes I worry that my Insta pix are TOO under-composed, that perhaps I should have shot the Paris hotel bed BEFORE I slept in it, but the slight ruffles of Instagram, and life, are what make it real.
That's the beauty of it. The imperfections.
Other times, you can be somewhere and take a photo that seems so surreal, you can barely believe you caught it. This shot, taken from the ferris wheel in the Tuileries (something I'd never tried but always wanted to do, esp in winter), reminds me of a Georges Seurat painting.
So here are a few Insta pix from Paris and London, from new places I've discovered, and a few old ones I've rediscovered.
Do consider joining Instagram, if only to share pix with your family, and if you do, then drop by and say hello at http://instagram.com/janellemcculloch_author
Or click on the link here to follow my Insta trail.
The Petit Palais
The staircase in the Petit Palais' is one of the most beautiful in Paris. And not that well-known. I love the curves of the ironwork against the curves of the staircase and the stone arches: an incredible design of line and beauty.
Other people will no doubt shoot it much better, but I wanted a 'snapshot' to remind me of its elegance.
Le Dokhan's Hotel
Le Dokhan's Trocadero is one of Paris' true gems. I've only stayed here once as it's normally quite expensive, but last week they were throwing away the rooms just to fill the hotel. So I booked three whole nights. It was bliss.
It really is a beautiful, beautiful hotel, which will fill your Insta feed if you're not careful. It's a neoclassic fantasy with a rooms decorated in blue and white, a lift lined in Louis Vuitton steamer trunks and a Champagne bar that just serves Champagne. (Of course!)
Do consider booking it on your next Paris trip. Even the cheap rooms are delightful.
Every now and then I become a little jaded with Paris, but then I see something that makes me realise how glorious it is. On this trip, it was the details: the exterior of the Galerie de la Madeleine; the gilded gate of the Petit Palais. That's what Instagram does: it forces you to look at the details.
It's easy to think you've 'done' the museums of Paris. Been there; seen that. But there are so many sweet little places to discover, and on this trip my 'find' was the sublime Jacquemart-André (Musée Jacquemart-André). Set inside a former mansion—once one of Paris' grandest residences—it displays the rooms as if they were still part of a private home.
It really is spectacular.
Something else I rediscovered was the treasure to be found in Paris' vintage designer boutiques, where wealthy Parisians and foreigners leave their unwanted (and often unworn) items. You can sometimes find new Hermès scarves, tag still attached, for under 100 Euros. Catherine B's boutique is a little over-priced now, but others, such as Reciproque, still offer bargains.
The florists of Paris and indeed London are always worth stopping at. Instagram is FULL of flower pix and no wonder: they're always a joy to see.
This was Wild at Heart in Notting Hill Gate. Aren't the 'red' hydrangeas beautiful?
Another place I discovered was the Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library near Victoria Station in London. A treasure trove for gardeners, it's a free library full of thousands of books that just focus on gardening. It's the largest gardening library in the world. I spent ages researching Gertrude Jekyll titles for a future book, but I could have stayed all day!
The Artesian Bar
A new favourite, this exquisite place was a symphony in pink leather and chinoiserie, with a little gilt thrown in. Designed by the late David Collins, it's one of the loveliest bars in London.
Great for a pick-me-up mid-afternoon, after a day traipsing around town.
The Portrait Gallery
Located high above the rooftops of West End, with incredible views of London, this is perhaps one of this city's best restaurant secrets. It was misty when we were there for a quick G&A, but I imagine it's magic on a summer's night.
Meeting Miss Tricia
And finally, Designers Guild held a wonderful Christmas soiree yesterday, filling the store with crafty people making gorgeous things. Founder Tricia Guild was also there and I was very fortunate to be able to spend a few minutes chatting to her. She is just as lovely as her designs.
It made me grateful for having an iPad to hand!