02.22.17 // 9:08AM
I run an Instagram account by the handle @tomislavsquats.
Tomislav is a seventeen year old football player who is often mistaken for a teacher by those who don’t know him, due to his beard and brawny arms. I once saw him eat a pound of beef in about three minutes (he was still craving fries afterwards). He regularly carries a gallon-sized milk container filled with water, which he lovingly refers to as his jug (“hydration is important!”). On the first day of high school, almost four full years ago now, he whirled around in his seat in Algebra 2 class to face me, the meek freshman sitting behind him (little did I know at that time that we were in the same grade– my impression from that first day was that he was a junior or senior). “Do you have a water bottle?” he rumbled, intensely staring me down. “Yes?” I squeaked. He paused, mouth slightly open and eyes still boring into my skull. Then, in the same voice a professional wrestler might have, he asked, “Is it plastic?”
I still don’t know why he asked that second question. I lent him my water bottle (which was, indeed, of the plastic kind), and after that, we didn’t talk directly to each other that much. We had a few classes together and shared some laughs over junior year English projects, but my relationship with Tomislav was mostly one of lighthearted coexistence… until December of senior year.
One day, Tomislav wore pants to school instead of his usual shorts. A conversation about how out-of-character this was somehow led to Tomislav designating me as his “official photographer” while he did squats. Soon, we had pictures of Tomislav atop desks, lockers, and couches. I captured him squatting mid-jump and looking holy; I photographed him squatting in a tux holding salami.
Originally, the idea was to simply take the photos and have them in existence, but this quickly evolved into starting an Instagram account where I’d regularly post new squats. Right at the beginning I offered to give him the account login and password but he refused, claiming that he “likes to stay disconnected.” We began with very few followers, about ten friends who were present when that first squat was taken, but over time the following built itself up. Friends started to send me photos of Tomislav squatting just about everywhere from downtown to scenic hilltops to the US Supreme Court building. Our teachers got involved, allowing us to take photos in their classrooms (and even photobombing a couple of them). When Tomislav was home sick from school one day, our calculus teacher suggested that the entire class take a group squat to surprise and cheer him up. Tomislav started fondly referring to me as his “marketing manager” rather than just his photographer and even promised to bring me coconut macaroons as “payment for my immense efforts” (he apologized profusely twice; first when he forgot to bring them, then once again when he brought them to school but accidentally ate them because he got hungry). Since we began the project this past December, almost 250 people have started following @tomislavsquats.
TomislavSquats marks a journey in which I’ve found so much delight, as well as a great friend. I look forward to the the ambushes of thoughtful text messages relating to future squats (or just the future in general). I live for the positively charmed expression that blooms on Tomislav’s face when I tell him things like “we got three new followers!” or “an Italian restaurant liked one of the pictures because I captioned it with #sausage!” TomislavSquats has become a fairly daily part of my routine, a lifestyle of sorts. In all honestly, some of the most magical things in life (like Tomislav) are uncapturable, but managing TomislavSquats is something that makes each day a little more special.