Following Freedom: Spontaneous Poetry with Cubs the Poet

If you follow along on instagram you’ll recall that I recently spent a few weeks in New Orleans on a project exploring what it means to pursue a passion. On the first day on the job day I was assigned to interview Cubs the Poet. Yes! What a treat this would be. 3 years prior I’d snapped a photo of him doing his thing in the French Quarter - that photo ended up hanging in my kitchen, a daily reminder to consider the passions we each have, and to get out there and share them with the world. Cubs' art form is what he describes as “Spontaneous Poetry” - I’d call it downloading his gift and giving his beautiful vibe to each person he connects with in the world.

Poetry Still Matters // Oui We & Cubs the Poet

I’m lucky, now to call Cubs a friend, and to have had a poem written for me that day about the pursuit of happiness! Read on for my interview with Cubs the Poet. 


AE: Let’s start with talking a bit about what you do and how you got started doing it:

Cubs: What I do is called Spontaneous Poetry - I write poetry on the spot for people. I use a vintage typewriter and a few questions to spark the conversation.

Typically the poem is written for them [the person he meets on the street], they give me a theme, I interview them on that theme and then type a poem on the spot and read it to them after I write it.

I’m originally from Baton Rouge, LA - my parents moved to Maryland and when I would leave college and go home for the summer I would ask myself: what do you want to do when you’re done? One day I asked myself, without any intention - what do you want to do - and poetry came to mind.

I wrote a poem, it was called Do You Like Poetry? - I would recite it to everybody on the street. Anybody that walked by I’d ask “Do You Like Poetry?” - they'd answer yes or no and I’d recite the poem. I did that all Summer. 


Cubs' break came that Summer when he was invited into a shop to share poetry with the shop clientele. The shop owner had a typewriter… Cubs borrowed it, from there he went out into the street and started creating poems for people as they passed by.

His next move: Royal Street in New Orleans.

 

Cubs the Poet via Oui We

AE: When you’re out here each day what do you find to be the best part of your day?:

Cubs: Well first, I chose Royal Street because it’s full of art, architecture, galleries, and historic landmarks. As I’m walking down the street as soon as I set up, I’m behind my typewriter, and I look out and I tell myself everyday I chose to be here

Walking down Royal Street, galleries are open, artists are present... I like to stop in and say hi to the artists, asking a question of the day - there’s a sense of community as I walk down the street. I’m asking people questions that provide content for the poems I'll write that day. I like to involve the community.

AE: What makes it all worth it for you?

Cubs: The level of connection with other people. When people realize no one is telling me to sit out here, no one taught me how to do what I’m doing… it’s an entirely different way of connecting and communicating.

When people see me writing poetry in the middle of the street, they see that I love to do it and can hear the tone in my voice -- it’s creating a more whole connection.

AE: If someone was considering pursuing a dream and wanted your advice about taking a leap to do their own thing, what would you tell them?

Cubs: First, it’s great that they’d be considering [pursuing a dream] - that they’d have that thought. I'd say “trust yourself before you can explain yourself.” As soon as you start to question yourself you start to take yourself away from the dream, so trust yourself!

AE: How do you measure success?

Cubs: If I’m not questioning anything before I fall asleep at night - that’s a successful day.  

Following Freedom by Cubs the Poet

Here's my poem written that afternoon, it sits on my desk, another beautiful reminder that pursuing a passion is a true path to happiness.

happy. feet, following freedom. 

a smile-similar to the horizon. a sun, blushes.

happy.

hands holding hearts. 

love, laugh sounds alittle like

the birth of bubbles, bursting with being - 

being happy. 

Thanks Cubs!

This post was written in partnership with Go Daddy. See more of on this project via the Go Daddy instagram and blog

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Get Out and Get the Shot: 4 Photo Tips & Then Some

by Oui We Contributor Sam Spahr

As a photographer, the visual record is everything to me (trés dramatic, oui). But I know I’m not alone because we live in possibly the most visual time. Photos are easy to produce and extremely accessible. We share like there’s no tomorrow! Every day I know what the desert in Oman looks like, and someone in Kraków is super up-to-date on my dog’s little adventures - thank you, Instagram!

Interlaken, Switzerland by Sam Spahr

With all of this possibility, access, and general love of photographing it’s easy, even for me, to get a bit wound up in it all while traveling. I’m deciding which camera to take, when to post a pic, not wanting to miss a cool shot… and wham: I’m spacing out on the whole experience instead of really living it. 

So, I’ve been working on me (claps for self) and am trying to do better. Maybe, just maybe, your out there thinking, “yeah I get a little caught up behind the lens too” Great, because cheating yourself out of any experience that you have spent planning and dreaming about for any amount of time is not fair to you or anyone hoofing it with you.

Pedernales, TX by Sam Spahr

After some reflection and practice, I have some thoughts that help me to better live in the real-time sweetness of my adventures, and I hope they help you too!

Choose your machine, and commit

As a bit of a purist, I always bring at least one camera, that isn’t my phone, along for any journey. Whether it’s film, point and shoot, DSLR, or even a cutie little instant camera, I like the focus of having one machine for one job. If you’re more comfortable shooting with your smartphone, do it! Whatever your choice, focusing on one camera apparatus is step one to dialing in.

One camera may work better for different activities or excursions than another. I would probably rely on my phone for a night out in a new place but take my DSLR or film cam out for a village stroll during the day. << look I can’t even pick one camera for a hypothetical, hahaha help me…

Resign yourself to the #latergram

I do not care if you’re shooting you’re entire Grecian getaway on your phone. Stop trying to post photos immediately after you’ve taken them. Harsh, I know, but it’s so important, and here’s why:

You will 100% miss the magic of the moment you’re trying to capture in the first place once you start filing through filters and slick captions and subsequent emojis. Save that stuff for a boring cab ride or take a few minutes when you get back to the room. Take the hand of your travel bud and run off into the bustling market instead of spending 11.7 minutes trying to upload it!

Harpers Ferry, WV by Sam SPahr
Boats in Paris, France by Sam Spahr

 

Be selective

Which is honestly just great advice, for life, but anyway… Choose the moments wisely. When you’re in a new place, everything feels exciting and worthy of a photo, maybe even a photoshoot. This is one that I struggle with most (read: spent 20 minutes posing my husband in front of a giant palmetto frond.)

Humans are emotional beings, and even if we don’t know it, we take photos because we are trying to hold on to a feeling. Remember this when you’re thinking of hitting the shutter. Ask yourself why you want the photo; it may save you from 100 in your camera roll totally unseen and forgotten about because they really weren’t that special in the first place. i.e. The Food Shot: Do you want a photo of a perfectly crafted creme brûlée or a shot of the unadulterated joy beaming from your partner’s face as they dive into it? Go for the feeling, if you must. Or take no photo at all and bliss out with your loved one. You’ll remember that feeling - no photo required.

Get the shot and get on

My hubs is usually my travel bud, and I owe his sighing and palpable distraction much credit for the wisdom I’m laying down. If he starts looking at something else or begins to gain a few strides on me, I know I’m taking to long photographing my subject. I rate my photo skills pretty high, so I tend to linger out of luxury and less so because I can’t get the shot I want. 

However, if you do find yourself spending more than a minute or so trying to snag a pic, it’s totally worth working on your photo game, no matter what you’re shooting with. Spend a few minutes on YouTube and start getting the best performance out of your device - camera or smartphone. You can better respect the time of everyone else your with if you know your machine and how to better use it. Happy travel buds = happy travels.

Hameau de la Reine at The Palace Versailles by Sam Spahr
Hameau de la Reine at The Palace Versailles by Sam Spahr

I’ll start you off with a few time-saving-get-the-shot-you-want-not-the-shot-you-end-up-with notes:

Grid + Frame

Seeing each photo as a grid can help you organize the space of your intended image, leaving you with better composed photos, which = more interesting images.

Use the age-old rule of thirds. Imagine that the frame of your shot is divided in to a 9x9 grid. (some devices give you the option to turn this grid on in real life.) 

Think about framing your shot within the thirds of the grid i.e. far left, far right, or center. Top, bottom, or center. Then you can play with splitting your subject across thirds, etc… Photos are usually more interesting when the subject is not placed center/center unless you're being very intentional.

Focus

It has a double meaning - 1: We say something is "in focus" when it appears sharp in the photo. I am the biggest ruler breaker when it comes to focus. I LOVE to play with what is in the foreground (typically what is in focus) and the background (what's usually blurry or out of focus). Sometimes I have fun creating shots that are totally out of focus (on purpose), but a lack of focus, or a blur, is also a way to convey movement and energy too.

2: The focus of the image itself, meaning where is your eye being drawn to? This is also where the grid helps. Use it to decide how to arrange the focus of your image. Where are you placing the subject? What is their relationship to the space behind them? To the side of them? Above them? If you want to get tricky, explore multiple points of focus. Check out my carousel image to see my use of the grid and focus (1 and 2).

Carousel, Paris by Sam Spahr
Carousel, Paris with grid, by Sam Spahr

Scale

Grand vistas, monumental buildings, and sky high waterfalls always warrant a photo but are sometimes the trickiest thing to translate. Inserting people into large scale scenes can help to convey the grandeur of an impressive subject. Have fun with it though: no need for a bunch of smiley shots. Have your human-scale helpers play with different poses and looks. Get that candid-esque feeling as they awe toward the inspiring landscapes before them. Shoot from a lower angle for some quick and easy drama.

Light

This is a tough one to distill into a few sentences, but the best advice I can give you is to use natural light when possible. Get up early and stay out late. Morning light is soft and gentle on almost any subject you could come across. Evening light can lay down some sick shadows on a city scape, and is my favorite time to shoot architecture and the general feeling of a town.

Also, don’t be afraid to shoot at night. It can be a little intimidating, but the absence of light is just as fun. Glowing candle light or some twinkle lights strung up above a café can lead to some seriously dreamy photos. Bonus: the good stuff happens early and late, the everyday moments that make a a place what it is like shopkeepers setting up in the market, neighbors greeting the day, general unabridged living. *and most importantly please don't use the flash... pretty please*

Louvre, Paris by Sam Spahr
The Palace Versailles, France by Sam Spahr

 

When you do have the time… play, play, play. The only way to get better and faster is to explore and play, which is a pretty nice excuse to keep traveling too ;)

Check back for more notes soon, and in the meantime, happy photographing!

- Sam

 

 

You do WHAT for a living?

I sometimes get asked what my job is. Specifically, as a writer: where/what do you write? How does a writer make money? Are you paid for your blog? Is there a day job we don't know about? Those sorts of things.

 hey girl, get a job!

It's a funny little gig. I worked in the corporate world for years and years and never had that "dream" of someday making it as a writer. My dream was to feel inspired creatively. To work with people I love. To continually train my 'eye.' To learn about art forms of all types. And, eventually that lead to writing. 

Honing in on what that truly meant for a j-o-b took a little time. 

Something I don't specifically "advertise" much (in whatever meaning that word has these days) is the other part of my job. Consulting work. I've grown that part of my business organically, word of mouth mostly. 

So truly here's what my job is:

  • As stated: I'm a writer. As lots of you know I have a book coming out this fall (and published book #1 in '14). I write this blog, which means I have sponsored posts both here and on instagram too, and those sponsorships are specific to brands that I already love and am thrilled to share with you all. Plus I occasionally contribute to other sites or publications too. 
  • Secondly: I'm a creative concepter. So what exactly does that mean? Well first I'll back up. In 2011 I launched a company (which I've talked about in previous brand posts) that produced fashion events. My team produced upwards of 50 fashion & design focused events a year. Our targets: influencers, media, buyers and tastemakers. Before that my corporate job was with a beauty brand for 10+ years. I worked in sales, marketing, operations and more. 

In 2016 I shifted my focus. I believe the future for creatives often lies in the digital world and experiential concepts. 

So presently: As a creative concepter I have clients of all types: authors, educators, bloggers, and beauty brands to name a few, of which I create digital strategies for. Some days I'm coaching them on their digital presence. Some days my team and I develop websites and some days it's look books, Instagram and Facebook pages, and it's all with a goal of attracting new business directly through the digital space. 

Here's a few examples of our clients whose stuff I'm just loving right now.

 Instagram page for @butteryourlife

Instagram page for @butteryourlife

First is Life Butter Radio. Life Butter is a podcast and blog out of London dedicated to both celebrating and demystifying wellness and beauty. It's a place where science meets lifestyle. For Life Butter our focus is to develop aesthetically brilliant social media pages filled with copy and images that speak to what the host of the show shares on the podcast and blog. 

 Cinderella Chats website

Cinderella Chats website

Second is Cinderella Chats. Cinderella (yes that's her real name) is an author and creative, whose talents include not only writing, but wedding planning, workshop and event hosting, speaking and more. For Cinderella our goal was to build a website filled with girly sparkle that will attract women of all ages to celebrate each other. Cinderella's mission was key to our strategy: encouraging women to keep their heads up and standards high!

 Paris Parker Salons &amp; Spas website

Paris Parker Salons & Spas website

Third is Paris Parker Salons & Spas. Paris Parker is a beauty company with 9 salon and spa locations: their mantra: “be your best self, live your best life.” Our work for Paris Parker involves image concepting, seasonal look book development and social media strategy and execution.  


I'm sharing this with you today for a few reasons. I'm often asked what first steps to take when building a brand strategy if your budget is teeeeeneeeensy.

Or, how to build a strategy when you're starting from scratch or relaunching your business for example. Or, how to create a blog when you can't pay a developer tens of thousands of dollars, and even if you can, how do you get people to actually read it?

I'm excited to speak on this exact topic at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (p.s. this part's a shameless plug and I beg all of you in New Orleans to pretty please come to my class and hang with me, we'll have fun I promise). Plus, I've started an e-book series on the topic as well. 

So whether it's developing a website, a digital look book, or creating a social media plan there's a strategy to it all. My first e-book covers the basics. (There's a link below to get it!)

Building Brand Me: Part 1

It includes an overview on the most popular social media channels, questions to ask yourself when determining your market, an overview of the apps I recommend for iPhone photos and a few do's and don'ts when creating social media posts. 

Part 2 is coming next, it'll focus on developing your brand voice. No matter what you're doing: launching a new blog, building your instagram page, creating an online shop, you're voice is key. How your potential readers/followers/shoppers 'hear' you determines what conversation they'll be willing to have back.

A note: what we don't focus on is how to reach 10K followers on instagram for example, because our goal is dedicated and engaged customers for our clients. The real deal brand "you" takes time and commitment to content and relationships, we believe the "followers' will come with a commitment to being your best digital self (and your best IRL self too, of course). 

If you're interested in receiving part 2 and other brand strategy tips sign up for my e-mail list here!

I hope the e-book is helpful to you all! Feel free to share it with friends and let me know how it's working for you. In the meantime, my team (all #girlbosses in their own right) and I are working quickly to get Part 2 ready for you. And! Be sure to give a listen to Life Butter, a hello! to Cinderella and a follow to Paris Parker

Plus, here's a few goodies to dress up your office. 

Thanks for being here you guys!

xo,

Andi