For a social platform with as many users as Instagram, it can often feel like you're seeing the same types of images over and over—from the brunch shots to the afternoon park stroll to the evening snap of what one is watching on the television or laptop—almost like a Insta version of Madlibs; everyone seems to be following a similar script, just with a slight degree of personalization. Instagram users by nature seem almost to embrace the cliche as if they are joining something bigger than themselves. I got to experience this firsthand when last spring I saw a hundred-odd teenage girls outside of Manhattan's Black Tap, a burger and beer joint boasting a velvet rope and ripped bouncers. Indeed, the scene was redolent more of a Meat Packing District club's exterior than an average bar and restaurant. It wasn't until a few days later that the friend I was with when we walked by the gaggle of teenagers explained that it was home to the "new Instagram food sensation:" massive, multilayered milkshakes that the young patrons seemed far more excited to photograph than actually eat.
So it says something about the state of the 'Gram that when scrolling through the hundreds of pictures the accounts I follow liked this afternoon, a curious thumbnail of what appeared to be a minimalist painting of colored circles set against a grid instantly stuck out, even when surrounded by a variety of other paintings. Credited to a new user named tube_patterns, once I clicked on the image, it became instantly clear why this painting felt so unique. It was not a high-concept, minimalist painting at all, but rather a cleverly-framed photo of a tiled wall in the Green Park Underground Station, part of London's sprawling subterranean tube system.
The rich irony that is at the heart of tube_patterns' eye-grabbing content is the fact that its source material is something millions of people walk by daily, never pausing to consider the striking patterns that can seemingly be found throughout the London Underground. When I showed the account to another friend with dual UK citizenship with family in London, he was indignant over the fact that having ridden the tube himself for more than twenty years, he couldn't believe that these vibrant and somewhat dated patterns were of British origin.
It takes a far more piercing perception and perspective to pick out those equally stunning and spontaneous sequential patterns that are so baked into our everyday lives that we generally don't notice them. Even with nearly 1.6 million photos bearing the hashtag of "#patterns," the vast majority of the pictures are of fabrics, tapestries, graphic design, and other modes of expression that people generally adorn with patterned visuals. By finding such intriguing and surprising patterns amongst the countless tiles affixed throughout Waterloo station or the carpet and chairs on the many different trains that run all over London, tube_patterns' keen eye has already made this account a masterpiece of the mundane in the mere four days that it has been in existence. As of the time of publishing, the identity of tube_patterns, alongside the account itself, remains generally unknown, with a measly 128 followers amassed after only 12 posts, all made on the same day. I'd even accuse myself of being a bit premature in taking the time to feature this account, which might be a one-off artistic experiment for all I know, except that this is the internet. It moves fast. In a matter of days, subway patterns could become the new milkshake and this account could be a cliche itself. So let's enjoy the moment, embrace the banal, and follow tube_patterns before the velvet ropes go up.
Update: tube_patterns said some very kind and succinct words on IG to me about my post. I feel all nice inside. But the person still remains unidentified, and who really cares? Keep up the smashing work @tube_patterns!