Look through the comments on Tony Ciampa’s Instagram account and you’ll notice the most common reaction people have to his posts is an immediate desire to share it with loved ones.
Comment after comment, there’s simply a tagged username or two – in other words, a simple message to convey something like, “Check this out. I think you’ll really like it.”
“It used to be, I would leave work and in 15 minutes I would write something down really fast then post a picture…now it’s like two hours.”
Tony, or @emolabs, has made a name for himself by posting his own simple, powerful handwritten poems against the backdrop of iconic Austin scenery.
The 22-year-old Boston transplant fills his Instagram feed with short verses packed tight with emotion and finished off with a witty rhyme. The reaction, thus far, has been tremendous. “Wow I usually don’t like such things so much but this is killin me,” writes one commenter. “I don’t know how you do it, but I feel every single one of these words,” writes another.
The funny thing is, according to Tony, hardly any of his poems are based on real-life events.
“The ones I initially wrote were autobiographical… but those weren’t about romance, just about being a 22-year-old guy and those type of emotions,” he says. “But now that I’m writing these lovey-dovey things, they aren’t as autobiographical.”
The general theme of Tony’s poetry is heartbreak – loving someone who doesn’t feel the same way or who lives far away. So, if not from personal experience, where does Tony get his inspiration?
“A lot of the bands I listen to have these types of themes in them,” he says. Pop, punk and acoustic music are Tony’s genres of choice. The lyric that informed his first poem was from the song “Aware” by Front Porch Step; it was the cadence of the words, he explains, that spoke to him more than the message itself: “Well I hate your cigarettes and the men that you go see/ Because one is killing you, while the other’s killing me.”
Tony’s creative process is simple. After he gets off work at Main Street Hub, a social media agency downtown, he makes his way to one of his favorite scenic views like Doug Sahm Hill or, more recently, a Hindu temple with a picturesque aquamarine pool, and writes whatever comes to mind. He finishes it off with his trademark rose drawing (a sort of watermark he came up with while doodling at Dominican Joe). Before the sun goes down, he takes a few shots and edits them using VSCO and Rookie.
“It used to be, I would leave work and in 15 minutes I would write something down really fast then post a picture. But now it’s like two hours after work,” he says.
The change came when Instagram featured him on its own account. Overnight, Tony had 31,000 new followers.
“I had to turn my phone off because it was just nuts,” he says of his sudden fame. “It was massive; my phone was just exploding.”
The primary reason for his shock: a lack of formal photography training and poetry experience. In fact, the reason nearly all his photos are taken outside, he admits, is because he isn’t the best at indoor shots. His first poem post was the first poem he’d ever really written, and he admits that he rarely reads poetry.
Now, though, praise for his writing is abundant. Every day, he gets another email from a stranger asking him to write a poem for a significant other. A high schooler has used Tony’s poems to ask his girlfriend to prom. A musician from Utah made a song from one of his poems and posted it on his personal Instagram account.
Tony has a plan in the works to deepen his connection with his followers: he plans to self-publish a book of poetry that encourages others to go out in their hometowns and take photos of the poems, just like the ones on his own feed. The book will also include blank pages, giving those who purchase it an extra space to create their own poetry.
@Emolabs has a knack for expressing emotions we all feel at some point in our lives, and by sending digital captures of these words into the ether, others are able to latch onto those words and relay them to friends, family, and significant others with a simple tag. In a time when authentic personal relationships seem to be lost among status updates and selfies, Tony’s Instagram account is utilizing the Internet to bring people together.
Click to download a free issue today to enjoy our Anniversary Issue!
All back issues are also currently available for free inside the new app to celebrate one year of Citygram!