Paul Maddison hadn’t set out to become an overnight Instagram sensation with a legion of followers from across the globe. Nor did the 32-year-old Langley resident plan on becoming a ‘visual ambassador’ for his own backyard. And if you had told him that his work would be on display at a local gallery, chances are he probably would have laughed.
If anything, the trendy mobile phone sharing app was just a fun distraction from the dissolution of his marriage and a chance to explore his creative side.
However, the social media phenomena has thrust the modest man behind the lens straight into the spotlight.
“I had never taken photography classes or anything like that,” explained Maddison, a horticultural arborist for the City of Vancouver, who only started ‘playing around’ with Instagram about five months ago.
The fast, free and increasingly popular social media tool allows users to share their life with friends, family and strangers. Once you’ve taken a photo or video, you choose a filter to transform its look and feel.
Maddison was working at a tree farm in South Langley when the picturesque rural property called him to action and try out the app.
“I started taking pictures of the nursery with my phone and really found it to be quite therapeutic,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“I had just separated from my wife and taking photos made me forget about things. . . my creative side also came out — that’s something that has never come out before.”
While most users tend to capture images of their pets, food, family and latest travel adventures, Maddison continues to focus on different outdoor landscapes throughout the Langley area.
“I just love the beauty out here . . . that country-meets-city feel. We’ve got so much diversity — parks, the river, bridges, farms, Fort Langley.”
His ethereal and dreamy photos of Langley evoke a certain romantic charm, a unique style that has won the hearts of Maddison’s friends, family and total strangers.
“I can still remember getting my first 100 subscribers and thinking, wow, that’s amazing that 100 people are following me on Instagram,” said Maddison who now has close to 1,000 fans.
“I even messaged the first 100th person and said ‘you’re the 100th follower.’”
Recently, Maddison was asked to display some of his photos at the Langley Arts Council — those images are also for currently for sale.
“So many people have a picture of a river or the Statue of Liberty, but what if you could have a picture of something from your own hometown?” asked Maddison.
‘’I think people really appreciate it more when there’s that local connection.”
Since creating his Instagram account last fall, one of his biggest supporters has been Tourism Langley.
Back in December, Maddison was invited along with a group of fellow bloggers and ‘Instagrammers’ from all over the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver area to help show Langley in a fresh new light with its #LangleyFresh tour.
The tour, which included stops at the Langley Winter Farmer’s Market, Well Seasoned Gourmet and the Langley Centennial Museum was part of Tourism Langley’s new year-long initiative to show a fresh take on Langley.
“We’re essentially looking to showcase all the things that make Langley special,” said Robyn Hanson, the senior community manager with Think! Social Media, who is helping to co-ordinate the Langley campaign.
“We’re also encouraging people to share their own experiences of Langley by using the #langleyfresh hashtag.”
When it came to Maddison’s photos, it was love at first hash tag for Langley Tourism.
“Paul has been such an ambassador for Tourism Langley . . . every day I look at his photos and the comments are from all over the world,” said Hanson, who is also an active Instagram user.
“I do like uploading photos for fun and like to think that I have a good eye, but Paul’s photos of Langley show a total creative side that is quite unique — his photos seem to really resonate with people.”
Even for Greater Vancouver residents who may think they know Langley having visited in the past or driven through, Hanson says Maddison is making some think twice about the thriving community.
“He’s really putting Langley on the radar by putting the spotlight on it.”
For Instagram users, follow Maddison @PAULMADD10 and take part in Tourism’s new campaign by hashtagging photos with #langleyfresh.