A popular Instagram user wants the world to know that you can find magic in Tacoma, that is, if you know where to look for it. What type of magic? The kind that entails spells, patronus and cloaks of invisibility.

Michael Thomas is the man behind the Instagram account Expecto Tacoma. In the photos on the popular social platform, Michael dresses up as Harry Potter and takes pictures in various places around Tacoma.

His photos are playful and fun, and are sure to put a smile on your face. There’s an air of whimsy to the pictures, as they also showcase the distinctive architecture and rich history of Grit City. 

Harry Potter Stadium High School
Stadium High School is known by many locals for its resemblance to Hogwarts, Michael’s Instagram account was born after he took a picture in costume at the high school. Photo credit: Michael Thomas

Michael started reading the Harry Potter series when he was nine, which was around the time the third book in the series came out. Back then, his mom read the books aloud to him. It didn’t take long for him to get swept up in the fantastical world of wizards and magic, and he’s been hooked ever since.

By the time the fourth book came out, Michael was reading the stories on his own and going to the midnight release parties when each new title came out. His love for all things Harry Potter continued into his teen years, when he started making Harry Potter websites, buying merchandise and got his friends into the series.

Harry Potter Mansion
Besides focusing on Harry Potter and magic, the Expecto Tacoma Instagram accounts highlights the history and beauty of Tacoma. Photo credit: Michael Thomas

When the mega Harry Potter fan moved here four years ago, numerous people told him about how locals often refer to Stadium High School as Tacoma’s version of Hogwarts. After hearing so much buzz about the high school, Michael felt like a photoshoot was something he had to pursue.

But it wasn’t until the spring of 2019 that he started thinking about ways to blend his love for the wizarding world into Tacoma in a more tangible way. One way he’s accomplishing that is through his creative Instagram posts.

“I just thought about different places that were like Stadium that kind of have a Hogwarts vibe. And it was really easy,” he says of the city’s buildings. “There are so many places in Tacoma that have awesome architecture or that are really unique and quirky, so it just kind of felt like a perfect match.”

Since he started, his Instagram account has received a lot of attention and his following continues to grow rapidly. The success of the account has taken him aback a bit, but one of the things he’s found most surprising is when people tell him his photos help them see Tacoma in a different way.

According to Michael, people who are used to hearing negative things about Tacoma comment about how much they like seeing the positive framing his posts have given the city. And his pictures receive plenty of double taps from diehard Tacoma fans, as well.

Harry Potter Mandrake
Michael Thomas collaborated with photographer Julie Ann Davis for this Mandrake photo, taken at the WW Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park. Photo credit: Julie Ann Davis

“People are excited that this place they love is finally getting the recognition it deserves,” he says of the pictures.

Not only has his feed helped show a new side of Tacoma, it has changed how he sees the city, mainly in that he can’t stop looking for ideal spots for future photoshoots.

“Now that I’m doing this, any time I’m out in Tacoma I’m constantly looking around and thinking about architecture and environment.”

His process for selecting locations and ideas for the photos comes from scenarios he thinks up, and sometimes he’s approached by photographers or other creatives looking to collaborate with him. In instances where a collaboration happens, he likes the photographer’s style to come across in the photo.

Expecto Tacoma
Michael Thomas and his husband Kent Thomas collaborated with photographer Andrew Cooper for this picture to kick off Tacoma Pride. Photo credit: Andrew Cooper

In terms of costuming, one idea Michael wants to pursue next is a twist on a quidditch costume. A few other things he wants to see happen are other Harry Potter cosplayers to join him in his pictures and also to expand the types of collaborations he takes part in.

No matter if it’s a solo effort or working with other creatives, he’s open to evolving his platform as things naturally progress and as new collaborations develop. Other hopes for his Instagram feed going forward are to keep featuring different people and places in the area, and to keep finding magic in the city of destiny.

“What gets me excited about the pictures is, we all get used to our environment, but there’s magic we can find when we stop and look around. And in doing this, it helps to build an appreciation of our community and the beauty of the city we live in.”

To find out more about Michael Thomas, follow him on Instagram.

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