DESIGN IS SWEET, BUT HOW CAN WE LOOK AT EVERYDAY STRUCTURES AS SACCHARINE-SATURATED SUCCOR? DRENCHED IN RETRO-FUTURIST HUES, THE INSTAGRAM FEED FOR DENVER-BASED ASHLEY ENGLER ANSWERS THAT QUESTION THROUGH A PASTEL PROMENADE OF INSPIRING GEOSPATIAL GEOMETRY. EVEN MORE ASTOUNDING: THIS ARCHITECTURAL EYE CANDY COMES FROM THE PALM OF OUR HANDS.
WORDS: CORY PHARE
Facing a difficult point in her personal life, Ashley Engler answered a different challenge in February 2011—taking a daily photo in response to someone literally on the other side of the globe. Australian blogger @FatMumSlim (Chantelle Ellem) created a picture-a-day prompt that got Engler thinking of how to capture a concept—2016’s list includes such instigatory esoteria as “lucky,” “faceless,” and “simplicity.” This artistic constraint resulted in a focus that unleashed Engler’s creative expression, one frame at a time. “Some prompts were really hard,” she said. “For instance, ‘toothbrush.’ How are you going to take an interesting picture of that?”
Thank the Insta-gods for oral hygiene. Her photos of buildings today now hit like a burst of sugar to the brain: heliotropic hexagons ascending to their termini, or the Golden Ratio unfurling down a cyan staircase. Soaring, swirling, and curving, they exist at the apex of structure and perception. And like the inspirational sayings they’re garnished with, they reward you more the longer you spend with them. “It’s a source of creativity, especially with the uplifting captions that come from everyday conversations,” said Engler. “They can be a little epiphany of life.” Pairing the elements of image and text is key, and the referential impact can be exponential. “I look at any Instagram post, and with the photo and caption, can identify exactly what was going on at that precise day and time,” she said. “In that way, it’s somewhat of a diary or journal.”
Constructing that personal monolith is no easy feat—especially when you’re doing it all on your phone. On one of Colorado’s many clear, sunny days, Engler will take up to 20 photos of a specific structure that catches her eye before beginning the editorial process. For that, she starts with Snapseed, an application used to crop, brighten, and adjust color saturation before moving on to more specialized tools; Diptic, PicTapGo, and Pixlr are just a few of the six or more apps she’ll use to compose the perfect picture. And how does she know when she gets there? “There’s a gut feeling to knowing when they’re done,” said Engler. “I don’t like to post it unless it speaks to the soul and I’m content with what’s been made.”
In addition to her personal Instagram feed, she also moderates @arkiromantix_denver (the regional branch of a popular tag for abstract architectural imagery) and @FlippinDenver (a nonprofit literary organization). Involvement in these various communities has led to her organizing photo walks and meetups for fellow aesthetes, including Keith Clark (@loverofbuildings), formerly featured in Modern In Denver. “We’ll do that quite a bit—just explore the city and shoot buildings together,” said Engler. “It’s neat to put a face and personality to a name you interact with all the time.” This sense of community also feeds a collaborative spirit: Engler will occasionally post others’ work that has inspired her (with attribution and filtered through her own creative lens, of course).
The result is a vibrant and nuanced Instagram feed, a saltwater taffeta of flowing color, structure, and volume. And the ephemeral nature of her medium means she’s never far from seeking inspiration for the next interpretation—and challenge. “In addition to architecture, [the feed] is sometimes abstract, sometimes geometric, and you might even see a cloud shot or pretty sunset,” Engler said. “It’s good to expect the unexpected; I like to be able to look back on it and smile.” We’ll tap twice to that.