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tiny little numbers and online stories

Margaret Robertson lives in Edinburgh, writes an occasional blog  on running, and observations of Edinburgh life :

Instagram @marob23

Twitter @marob23

Not everyone is a fan of social media - but without Instagram I would not have encountered Chris and Viv or as I still think of them - them Married with Grown ups - and would not be writing this.

I first came across their Instagram feed a while back, liked one of their images and then saw from their profile that they were, like me, at a similar stage in life with children grown up but still looking for adventures! They posted beautiful pictures of landscapes, of sunsets and birds and then even better, places in Scotland that reminded me of home and a place of happy memories from where I lived as a child.

In my day job, I work in marketing and if I believed much of what is written in the marketing trade press, I could be forgiven for thinking that life online is solely the preserve of those under 30, but this is not my own experience. Like most people of my age who are working - we are using all sorts of tech daily, and many retired and older family members have found in later life how iPads and similar gadgets are a great way to keep in touch with family, to research holidays and do all manner of things. The beauty of the internet and social media is how simple it is to use and the ease of access and while we may use the social channels differently, social media and life online is a home for all ages. 

​I can remember life before 'the Internet', Facebook, Instagram, Twitter et al. and because I lived through analogue times – I can also remember the time and effort involved in photography, writing and publishing. Maybe because of this, I am still entranced by the novelty and immediacy that social media provides. I find pleasure in the simple act of sharing a picture I have taken, and of seeing and commenting on what others have shared.

​Having a window into different lives has opened my mind, taught me a lot and I have even made some good real-life friendships, started via the tiny squares of Instagram.

​I do understand that when we post images we are only sharing a version of ourselves and curating our lives by selecting what we post – but as an amateur writer, dabbling photographer and observer of life - discovering interesting people via  social media including blogging, has provided me with inspiration and in return access to an easy way of doing something a tiny bit creative - which I find therapeutic.

There can be anger and intolerance online - particularly on Twitter - but my own experience is that as with all communities - like-minded people find each other through shared interests and values.

This is a roundabout way of me saying that I think social media is more of a force for good than bad :) 

Dabbling in Photography

Years ago I was quite a keen photographer, but was not sufficiently dedicated to want to go everywhere carrying heavy cameras and lenses or fully committed to understanding the technical aspects of exposure and F stops to improve my craft ;) Over time I moved from a SLR camera to smaller cameras - sometimes disposables but still with film, progressing to digital versions of mini cameras.

When I came to replace my Fuji fine pix - and discovered that the iPhone camera was almost as powerful - that was a game changer and was both the end and beginning of my photography pastime.


We do now own a decent digital camera, but I hardly ever use it, and while my iPhone is not right for every situation, the convenience of having a powerful pocket-sized camera always available - has rekindled my interest in photography.

It also dictates the subject matter - as even the best iPhone has limitations when it comes to capturing landscapes or zooming in on faraway objects and this might explain why I find myself drawn to taking pictures of small things.

The Joy is in the Detail

Most of my photography takes place as I am walking around Edinburgh or other cities, and when strolling if you look closely - there is a wealth of interesting detail to be found.

Wandering through cities, I have spotted everything from ornate ironmongery on a manhole cover to intricate stonework on building lintels, and many things in between. The city is awash with tiny fragments of art that tell a story. Once you have 'your eye in' to see these small details, they pop up everywhere and lend themselves very well to iPhone snapping.

Tiny Numbers

I can't quite remember when I started taking pictures of numbers, but I have always loved typography and commercial art and perhaps an interest in these tiny artworks is a by-product of that.

I don't have any rules as to what constitutes a 'good' number - it's very subjective and there is no formula - it just depends on what I like at the time. It might be a carefully painted number in gold leaf above a door, or brass numbers screwed on a bit squint. I love a weathered number on a stone gatepost - but am equally fond of a 70s style 'stick-on' decal against a garish colour of paint. The house number sits sentry both welcoming and protecting and while houses are remodelled and reconfigured over the years - often the house number remains unchanged. I think about what and who the number has witnessed over the years, and the  tales it could tell. Some numbers seem to have a personality - cheeky, austere, whimsical, stalwart, and if I can, I try to write a caption to match the style of the number.​This is entirely my own interpretation of the number persona and others may not see the cheeky insouciance I see - or the flirty nature of a particular digit as I do.

My tendency to anthropomorphise numbers might also depend on the mood I am in when I take the snap! These tiny artworks don't always need a description, or caption and so I leave the pleasing visual combination of number and background to do the talking. When I was training for a marathon a few years ago, I had a notion to collect pictures of numbers 1- 26, but I gave up on this when I kept taking pictures of 2s and 3s and 5s - and never finding a 26 or 8 that made the cut. As a pastime, I prefer to be free to take pictures of those numbers that appeal to me and so my collection of number pics will always have doubles and triples and omissions as there will always be some that for whatever reason just don’t speak to me ! As a photographic subject, it is one of almost infinite possibilities - the world is full of numbers and I am happy to just keep snapping as I encounter those that catch my eye.



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