I've been speaking to friends, industry experts, adventurers, pioneers and creators about their morning routines. This week, I spoke to internationally renowned photographer, Robert Spangle about how his routine provides a grounding for the day ahead.
Robert, alias Thousand Yard Style, is a former Force Recon Marine, Savile Row trained tailor, designer and international street style photographer. His photographic work has featured in British GQ, The Rake, Vogue Online and Esquire amongst others. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he recently returned to the Middle East to Iraq to capture some of the most captivating street style images I have ever seen.
When he's not travelling the world, hopping from fashion week to fashion week, Robert has also developed his own small but perfectly formed range of Men's clothing and accessories - The Observer Collection. The collection focusses on both function and style by reflecting on a lifetime of travel, from austere military campaigns to the height of luxury, while constantly looking forward to a world where the creative elite travel continuously. The OCDBD shirt is a personal favourite from the collection.
I first saw Robert's work on Instagram, and while the examples of his professional work he shares there are stunning, his Instagram stories are fun glimpses into his exploits and travels. They're often educational and occasionally cryptic - a recent one-liner prompting a conversation about our shared love for Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. If you follow him on Instagram you'll see that he seems to be in persistent motion, always travelling and always active yet still effortlessly stylish.
Here's how Robert's routine helps him get moving:
"The value of ritual didn't take a value in my life until recently. Until 25 or so I can’t remember ever having a set way of doing things, or a part of any day repeated and familiar to the next. When I started traveling for work most of the year, stress started to get to me, I called it “travel chaos”. Eventually the cocktail of jetlag, hangovers, severe acclimation and stress started to manifest as a sort of temporary extreme disassociate disorder. I would wake up in in some strange country, unable to remember my name, age or mother tongue. It was so terrifying I often could not move for several minutes. Eventually it would come back of course, but I noticed I only felt better, calmer, after brewing a cup of coffee.
With some study I came to realize that for me, brewing my morning coffee was a grounding ritual. I did it exactly the same way, wherever I was in the world. From then on I started to cultivate rituals for myself in my daily routine, to better keep my head amidst the stress and constant shifting cultural surroundings while on the road.
As it is now, I start every morning making coffee the exact same way, a ceramic hand grinder, my favorite beans from home, an Aeropress, timing the brew with my MKII watch. It’s a good indicator to slow down if I can’t brew a simple cup of coffee in the day.
From there I meditate, or try. Sometimes just 5 minutes, if I can 15 or 20. With so much going on physically around me and on electronic fronts, clarity and focus is very important, never more than when I’m commuting by motorcycle where a moment’s distraction can easily take your life.
I try not to touch anything electronic until I’ve had my coffee and meditated, that much information and distraction is the wrong foot to start my brain on in the AM. After that I write a to-do list, and generally get to emails. Transportation allowing I do this on the move
In the evening I get home and backup my photos. While this is happening I’ll run, workout or go to the gym. It gives me little boost of energy that gets me through late night editing, emails, planning, clears my head for a while, and gives me a better feel for the city."
Thanks for sharing your morning routine, Robert - Hell, they were gonna make you a Major for this.