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If there is one thing my time in Columbus taught me, it's that a zip code isn't home. Home is wherever you find yourself. It's where you find your people. Columbus is a strangerless land. It's made up of tiny collectives; a smattering of of kindred spirits traversing the city and wandering the universe. Whether you're into dogs or photography, craft beer or yarn bombing, you'll find your people in Columbus. And when you do, they won't feel like strangers. They'll feel like familiar friends you chatted with briefly once upon a time in a metro station or shared sandwiches with across a junior high school lunch table.
So convincing is the 614 bond, that when one of those stranger-friends reaches out to you, it's easy to forget you've never met. You've just been running in the same circles, stomping the same ground, inspired by the same love of place without actually finding yourselves at the same dot at the same time. Such is the case with Robert W. Tobin. I'm not sure when or where or how we first crossed paths, but it seems he has always been there, offering up love letters to a city loved by thousands -- each one a story in a square.
If you don't already know him, you should. And this is a good place to start.
Tell me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and how did you get here?
RWT: A native Texan, I now call Columbus home. It's a great city, and Ohio has so much diverse natural beauty. Because I rarely saw a true winter as a child, I love snow and snow pictures are my favorites. In addition I value the sense of connectedness I feel with things that belonged to others in the past. My Grandfather was a passionate mountain climber and photographer and I feel this inspired my love for the mountains and for photography. I'm a tree hugger, and by that I mean I can't stand to see trees taken down and believe that we should plant more. In addition, even though I love the city, I have this dream of living in the country. I love early lunches and late dinners. And...large amounts of black coffee each morning...which leads me to...I love children, and currently work with 25 first-graders each day in a school setting. When I head out on a photo shoot I often have a particular shot in mind I wish to capture, and I usually end up with something completely different! I frustrate myself with being a perfectionist and will at times, ditch photos and begin again. Lesson learned?... I believe it is always good to trust your initial instincts. I'm flattered and honored that Instagram has personally reached out to me on numerous occasions through being a suggested user, placing me in the honored spot as the winner of the Weekend Hashtag Project #WHPfeelslikehome, and sent me thank you notes and special gifts as a part of contributing to the Instagram community.
What is igcbus? How does it work?
RWT: @igcbus is a community Instagram page for announcing Instameets and pop-ups in and around Ohio's Capital. In addition, we feature photos of Instagrammers who live and or have a special relationship with Columbus. There are several hashtags we peruse for features such as #CbusCommunityFirst, #igcbus, #CbusPeopleWorthMeeting, #CbusMustSee, and #igcbus_ontheroad, in addition to photos folks tag us in at @igcbus. Our name was inspired by the great folks at @igdc who have been very supportive of our start-up.
What inspired you to start it up?
RWT: I felt there needed to be a page that could criss-cross the diversity of Columbus' Instagram community, as well as effectively connect with the Columbus' business community. I believe it's this ability to instill and preserve intimacy, while taking Instameets to a new level as events is what sets us apart. In addition, many of our meets have become talked about annual traditions such as 614Day, MidSummerNightsDream, CbusResolutions, and others.
What is the #CbusCommunityFirst hashtag?
RWT: #CbusCommunityFirst is inspired by Instagram's #communityfirst hashtag as a way to share special moments in Columbus. To quote Instagram, "Instagrammers are passionate and look to the rest of the community for inspiration. Many form friendships that lead to real-world meet-ups where they connect over their love for photography." At @igcbus, we stand by that motto as a way to tell stories along with sharing moments that matter.
What is the relationship between igcbus and Experience Columbus?
RWT: I first met Joe Vargo, Director of Interactive Marketing for Experience Columbus, when I was planning the first #614Day2014, a community Instameet inspired by the 614 area code after seeing a similar idea in Toledo (419Day). I reached out to Experience Columbus to let them know that I was planning to host the event and how excited we were to promote Columbus through telling its story through pictures. Joe was enthusiastic to help and offered to send a film crew to follow several Instagrammers throughout the day to hear and see their impressions of Columbus and what makes it special.
At the time, Experience Columbus was involved in a unique project of featuring Instagrammers' shots of the city by placing a plaque on the sidewalk with the shot and name of the Instagrammer in the location of where the picture was taken in order to call attention to notable photogenic vantage points around the city.
Not only did they interview some notable Instagrammers visiting from out of town that day such as @littlecoal from Toledo, but in addition, they filmed several of the Instagrammers who took the shots featured on the sidewalk plaques as they told their story of what inspired their pictures.
When @igcbus first came on line in August 2015, I was excited for Joe Vargo to be my co-administrator as I knew we both shared a passion for capturing Columbus' stories through photos.
Since the original #614Day2014, Joe and I have worked on many projects together including #614Day2015, a 12 hour Instameet hosted in several notable locations with an art theme including the Hilton Columbus Downtown, Le Meridian, The Joseph, The Pizzuti Collection, culminating in a special evening gathering at Darby Dan Farm. In addition, we've hosted meets at the Columbus Museum of Art, The Wexner Center in order to celebrate their new policy to allow photos in the galleries, and a special kayaking event for Instagram's Worldwide Instameet on the Scioto River in downtown Columbus with Olentangy Paddle. This was one of the most magical events as a handful of Instagrammers paddled downriver in kayaks from North Bank Park as far south as the Main Street Bridge and back, shooting amazing photos of Columbus from the unique vantage point of the river. It was truly a special evening.
Tell me about the meet ups? Any cool stories come out of those events?
RWT: In addition to the planned meets, there have been a handful of great serendipitous encounters. Two in particular that stand out are two Instagrammers, one from Boston, (@_madickey_) and one from Washington DC (@someguy) that have not only visited Columbus, but have contributed in such positive ways in our community. According to Boston based passionate architecture aficionado @_madickey_, "Columbus is a mix of glamorous Art Deco and honest Brutalism with a smattering of historic brick." That's why we love having visitors visit. They always see Cbus with a fresh set of eyes!
It never ceases to amaze me at how simply putting a call out on Instagram can bring great folks together that would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Such was the case when Andy @someguy contacted me when he was visiting a friend in Columbus. Not only did I make a new friend, we began a great friendship with the great folks of @igdc.
What do you use to shoot?
RWT: For Instagram, I shoot exclusively all iPhone. I made this commitment from the beginning when I first joined Instagram in 2012 because I love the immediacy and the candidness of mobile photography.
How would you describe the Columbus Instagram community?
RWT: The first word that comes to mind is diverse. Columbus is an incredibly creative community. One of the things I find most interesting is how so many folks can shoot the same scene at an Instameet, each with such a different take and style. I have met so many great folks through Instagram. Like many, I initially came to Instagram with the intent of editing photos, but what I have found here is a welcoming, inclusive, and creative community.
What sets Columbus apart from other cities?
RWT: I like to say Columbus is a boutique big city. It's cosmopolitan yet intimate. We have these amazing cultural lifestyle pockets. It's a city with a rich with a diversity of ideas and creativity.
What do you wish more people knew about Columbus?
RWT: Columbus remains a mystery to so many, but that's changing fast, and like so many places, Instagram has helped to put places on the map. Columbus is very photogenic and needs to be photographed more from folks visiting. Whenever they visit, they're awed. I know this to be true because of the international community on Instagram.
Most underrated place/thing to photograph in Columbus? Most overrated?
RWT: Each time I post shots of our skyline from the Main Street Bridge I receive amazing engagement internationally. Columbus has a unique skyline, surreal and unexpected. The shot may be cliche but worth taking over and over. Don't let it stop you. Most underrated place? The Supreme Court of Ohio. It is truly one of the most amazing buildings I've ever seen, inside and out. It's amazing how few folks know that you can tour the inside uninhibited and unescorted. Show your state issued ID at the guard desk and enjoy world class architecture and the best observation desk in the city from the library at the top floor. While the Rhodes Tower may have an observation desk on a high floor 40+ stories up, the view from the libraries galleries offers an intimate view of the city and our amazing riverfront from 12-14 stories up, high enough for drama, low enough to truly see our beautiful city from a 360 perspective.
What Instagram sin drives you crazy?
RWT: Following and unfollowing. That is no way to build community. Case in point, I don't follow a huge number of people because I want to interact and appreciate each person I follow. I have high hopes for Instagram's new algorithm as it may allow people to see more of their favorites quickly that they follow.
Besides your account, who are your top three must-follow Cbus instagrammers?
What are your favorite photo apps?
RWT: CortexCam, and Instagram editing tools.
CortexCam gives shots a clean crisp look that never grains out, however I have come to appreciate the fine grain of film, particularly medium format. CortexCam was first developed as a nighttime app to give clear non-grainy nighttime shots, but I've discovered its effectiveness in daylight as well. Always start out with great light and the editing will be minimal. Instagram tools have come a long way and many of the new filters are fantastic! My favorites are Dogpatch, Ludwig, and Juno, as well as the editing tools to enhance an already great photo.
What are your top three tips for taking beautiful Instagram photos?
1. Seek great light, less than perfect weather...completely overcast, or magic hour.
2. Scale and composition.
3. Your iPhone. I made the commitment to shoot all IPhone upon joining Instagram and I've not wavered.
What’s up next for igcbus?
RWT: We want to continue our commitment to creating and hosting memorable meets as well as showcasing the great talent in Columbus and beyond.
Describe your perfect Saturday in Columbus?
RWT: The summer movie series at the Ohio Theater. Seriously, with surroundings like that who cares what movie they're showing!
Where can people follow you on social media?
RWT: Besides @igcbus, on Instagram, at my personal account @robertwtobin, where I post photos I take as I come across unique places and people I encounter in my daily travels, for the most part in chronological order. I like to think of my Instagram account as a photo blog. When I look back through it, it's nice to relive those memories; I remember the moment when I shot each photo.
Which brings me to @story.in.a.square. In addition to my page @robertwtobin on Instagram I started a project, @Story.In.A.Square to highlight what has now been nearly four years since I first joined Instagram in November 2012. During that time, I've posted along the way and met a lot of great folks, but there have been certain moments that, quite simply, stand out. I'm not one for flooding Instagram feeds so there will be many that have never made it out of the camera roll. Nearly four years of photos.
Besides my personal account Robert W. Tobin on Facebook, CbusMeet was a page I started in the spring of 2015. It was inspired by Cinstameet, in Cincinnati, and is a community page for posting announcements and meet-ups usually connected with Instagram. The unique difference between @igcbus and CbusMeet is that anyone who is a member is invited to post about events and gatherings they feel will interest the community. CbusMeet has 130+ members to date.