In the age of all things social media, it often feels like everyone is presenting themselves as the next big thing. That’s why NYC-based Simbarashe Cha (known to the public as Lord Ashbury) chose to separate himself from the pack, cleverly referring to himself as a “fashion recorder” vs. a photographer.
“When I first started lordashbury.com, I was unclear if I could call myself a ‘fashion photographer’. After all, I didn’t have any fashion clients back then. I didn’t like the term ‘blogger’ either because all of the ‘fashion bloggers’ were writing about fashion shows I hadn’t been invited to, or they were pretty rich girls posting photos of themselves”
The story behind his moniker, Lord Ashbury, is a blend of California cool mixed with British sensibility. “I wanted it to sound like something you could wear.” he chimes in. “There’s a neighborhood in San Francisco called Height-Ashbury that’s pretty famous, and for a while I lived pretty close to Ashbury Street, so the name Ashbury has always been a part of my identity. Lord Ashbury just made sense.”
Interestingly enough, Cha’s love affair with photography began as another was ending—he discovered his passion in the midst of a divorce from his ex-wife. Still friends at the time, he asked her to sit for a few portraits in Bryant Park. Amazed that she agreed, he spent what he describes as a “perfect late autumn day, where the leaves had all turned and it was cold, but not too cold” taking photos. While bittersweet, Cha realized that photography gave him a sense of calm that he’d never felt before. “If I could photograph someone while in that situation, I decided that photography was probably for me,” he shares.
Cha rarely posts photos the same day they occur—even street style photos. “When I was in high school in there was this song by Radiohead called “The Tourist” and the chorus said, “slow down.” And I heard that song and went into my adulthood doing everything on my own time.”
His personal style is equally as straightforward. “I don’t have a mantra for personal style, but I appreciate and can easily spot when someone else does. Which is why I’m behind the camera and not in front of it.”
In his downtime (which is rare), Cha loves studying fashion photography — Peter Lindburgh, Alexander McQueen, Helmut Newton, and Vivian Meier are favorites. “My entire universe is wrapped around photography.”
Cha also takes a unique approach when vetting his subjects. It’s more about the energy they exude versus their look. “I learned within the first 6 months that it’s not worth photographing well-dressed people with bad attitudes. I walk away from the transaction not liking that person, I’m going to continue to not like them when I render the photograph at home. And my website and social media space will not be full of people I do not like,” he shares.
“To me a Modern Original Person doesn’t look like anyone else,” Cha reminds us. “Original people are the ones we see on the street and think, ‘That person must be crazy’.”
To learn more, follow Lord Ashbury on Instagram @lordashbury or visit his website: www.lordashbury.com