Freshman Liam Weir Is Reclaiming Instagram As A Space For Artists

Instagram

 “All the photos of the world are taken at this height, so I try to do interesting things—I try to get down lower.”

Liam Weir, A&S ’18, is just “a delusional Irish guy running around Boston with an iPhone”—or so his Instagram bio would suggest. “Liamweir” brings an uncommon perspective to Boston College, and his photography of campus and the city of Boston reflects that.

Weir, who has lived in Ireland the past 15 years, came to BC from a family of artists. The son of two independent filmmakers, Weir spent much of his life experimenting with photography and film—whether on a professional movie set (he was a child actor in the 2007 movie 32A), or experimenting in taking photos with his father. “I realized then that I had an eye, and I’d see things that other people wouldn’t,” Weir said. “That’s why I take photographs.”

Oddly, Weir’s development as a photographer began with the opening of his Instagram account. It all started with his iPhone 4, with a camera technically inferior to that of recent iPhone models. Weir started to use the platform when it first began in 2010. In its early stages, Instagram was almost purely a community for photographers, rather than a social network it is today. “At that time, it was a very cool photographic project,” Weir said.

Instagram

Instagram has evolved significantly since the time Weir arrived on the scene. The smartphone app only really began to pick up popularity with non-photographers in 2012. Weir remembers the transition days with disdain. “It was just all my friends’ filtered pictures of their pizza and, like, lattes,” he said.

It was then that he resolved he would become part of an already growing counterculture of “Instagram artists,” photo purists who insisted that mobile photography had applications far beyond the mundane.

The mobile aspect of photography is a major part of Instagram’s appeal to Weir. He is fundamentally opposed to using anything but a cell phone camera to post an Instagram. A large part of what Weir is trying to portray in his photography is that it’s not the equipment or production that makes a photo exceptional.

“Ninety percent of photography is being in the room, where you put yourself in the room, what you see,” Weir said. “Very little has to do with equipment.”

Weir loves when it rains on campus, and while most of his friends curse the gray, gloomy weather, he runs out to find a new dimension of BC. One of his “puddle photos” is through the reflection of a manhole puddle. The urban, grid-like design of the manhole is jarring beneath the reflection of the beautifully constructed arches of Stokes Hall. “You can find a whole new Stokes Hall in a puddle,” Weir said.

Stokes hall through a manhole puddle.

A photo posted by Liam Weir (@liamweir) on

Instagram can be used as a platform for artists, but as many artists uncover using it, the mobile app can just as easily be used as a marketing tool, and often the best compositions don’t get the most “likes.” As an intern working in social media for Image Publications in Ireland, Weir learned there’s even a science of when to post a picture so that it gets an optimal number of likes.

Weir found these statistics on optimization and strategies for getting likes creeping into his art, and with time, he started to rely on them. He would come to regret posting some photos that he loved when he discovered they weren’t as popular to his followers. “I’m very vain,” he said. “I need lots of encouragement.”

Weir has since adjusted his view. In the long run he’s found that by ignoring the “like count,” he is gleaning more likes than ever before. To Weir, Instagram should be about art, and that art is uninhibited by social media feedback.

For photographers like Weir, Instagram is a middle ground. Where Facebook is too casual for high-quality photography and Flickr too intense (“Flickr’s standard is extremely high. I got 300 views once, and one favorite,” Weir said), Instagram is home to a more welcoming community. Weir’s 800-something followers are an international community, with particularly strong segment from Italy, and mostly act in support. “There’s a great culture of politeness on Instagram,” said Weir.

This support has greatly enabled Weir’s artistic freedom, and has led him to a creative vision: taking photos from angles and perspectives that most people have never seen.

“All the photos of the world are taken at this height,” he said, motioning to his 6-foot frame before he quickly dropped to the ground, lying down in true Weir fashion. “So I try to do interesting things—I try to get down lower.”

Instagram

On a rainy day about three weeks ago, Weir had no qualms about lying down on the wet ground to get a stunning shot of Fulton Hall. Regrammed by BC’s official instagram, this is one of Weir’s more popular shots because it is so distinctly framed. One rarely ever sees a photo from such a dramatically low perspective. Overall, this post represents how the dark, wet qualities of weather don’t diminish beauty. Instead, just looking through a different perspective will show just how gorgeous the campus still is.

Whether chasing sunsets or running out in the rain, Weir is an opportunity hunter. Early on in his Insta-career, he might have stopped himself from getting a picture because he’d look awkward taking it, but he’s since dropped any such consideration. Sometimes the best shot looks a little embarrassing when you’re taking it, he resolved. “If it’s worth taking just one more shot, then go ahead and take the shot,” he said.

This “last shot” mentality has informed many of Weir’s best photos.

A political science major at BC, Weir does not plan to make a career out of iPhone photography. For now, he’s content with selling 4×6 inch prints of his Instagram photos. “It’d be a bit weird to sell my selfie,” Weir said.

Instagram art is just an extension of life for Weir, and he doesn’t see himself breaking away from it anytime soon. “I would love to be involved in politics, but still be lying in the middle of the street in Washington, DC taking artsy pictures in a suit,” he said. “Why not?”

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor