NOVELIST, STREET STYLE PHOTOGRAPHER, CREATOR OF LORD ASHBURY
Written + Photographed By Kelley Mullarkey | Video Produced By Sean Stillmaker
In the Greek language, Meraki is a word used to describe doing something with soul, creativity and love – when you put “something of yourself” into what you are doing, whatever that may be.
Meraki is so powerfully beautiful that it cannot be translated or filed down to just one single word within the corridors of the English language.
Given its nature, the only true way one can experience it, is to see it in action. It is through the genius mind and works of Simbarashe that we are granted the opportunity to watch this ancient word come to life.
Taking the definition from the dictionary to the streets with every click from his camera, Simbarashe captures the raw beauty of the individual human spirit in such a way that reaches the deepest valleys of passion, transcending into an unfathomable archive of sartorial art.
Displaying a riveting medley of men, women and adolescents taking part in the everyday adventures of life, Simbarashe’s blog, Lord Ashbury, reads more like a visual cultural exhibition of expression than a world wide web address.
Under the lens of Simbarashe, your senses are pulled into each and every photograph: you feel the energy of today’s youth, the sun on your back, the love between a couple holding hands.
Simbarashe’s photographs reach your soul, showcasing much more than the eye can see. With Simbarashe, you do not experience merely a fragment of time; you become part of the world’s story.
Back in early May on a rather unpleasant and windy (nightmare of a) day in Chicago, I discovered Simbarashe’s street style blog, after his ever so adorable assistant Savannah left a comment on one of the recently posted majestic disorder features.
Instead of catering to my usual and slightly obnoxious midday coffee needs, I spent the entire course of my lunch break sifting through page after page of Simbarashe’s photos at my desk, occasionally calling over my fellow copywriters to take part in the viewing. Part of me was enthralled with the photographed subjects, the other part with the photographer himself who so naturally shined through each and every single portrait.
Within a few weeks I was hooked. I found myself obsessively refreshing Simbarashe’s blog throughout the day and like most (all) of my decisions, I impulsively purchased Sean and myself two tickets to NYC. I was determined to meet Simbarashe in person and find out every little aspect of life that inspired him.
After battling the scorching heat of Manhattan’s playground, which felt more like Dante’s Inferno, we arrived at Simbarashe’s apartment. Wearing quite the minimalist ensemble, a perfectly crisp white shirt paired with a gray pair of trousers, accompanied by one extraordinary smile, Simbarashe introduced Sean and myself to Savannah, the individual who inadvertently brought us all together.
As Simbarashe began explaining his childhood, I soon realized that I needed a diagram to fully comprehend his youthful whereabouts. Even early on Simbarashe’s experiences placed him far ahead of the game.
Born in L.A., he moved around a lot as a child, having attended public, private and boarding schools both in and out of the country.
Always the curious type, Simbarashe recalls being creatively fascinated from quite an early age.
“I always wanted to be a cinematographer. I saw the movie E.T. when I was two years old. Everything about seeing that at a very young age impacted me. I was too small to recall the plot at the time, but I remembered it visually. I’ve always engaged with what stories look like.”
Growing up Simbarashe channeled his creative energy through the exploration of several artistic ventures ranging from playing with bands to writing a screen play his senior year of high school.
“I ended up going to 10 schools in 12 years. I spent my freshman and sophomore years of high school in Kansas City, part of my junior year in Dallas, Texas and my final year in Albuquerque, New Mexico.”
It was during his senior year of high school that Simbarashe began taking his experiences and turning them into print. Having attended four different high schools, all in really great public standing, Simbarashe noticed a trend among the students, primarily with the upper class white demographic and their interest with both guns and the gangster lifestyle.
“I wrote a short story, which I turned into a screenplay entitled Everybody Hates Donica Pine (later to be published in book form as Warsongs) about a school shooting, but at the time no one understood where my characters were coming from. I originally wrote the story to cope with the death of my classmate. Two years later two senior students went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School killing 12 students and themselves.”
During his 20s, Simbarashe spent some time playing as a guitarist in a few bands like The Small Hours before making the leap of faith to NYC where he dabbled into an arena of creativity ranging from professional writing to the creation and evolution of his blog, Lord Ashbury.
With two published books under his belt, Veronasongs and Warsongs, Simbarashe began a new era of his life, one that focused on telling stories visually through his photography.
The phenomenon of Lord Ashbury began its manifestation on January 1st, 2012.
“I was walking home through Times Square in NYC around 2 or 3 in the morning. There is something really sort of fascinating about New York right after New Years and I felt compelled to document it. That’s where Lord Ashbury really started.”
The following month a photograph that Simbarashe had taken at New York Fashion Week surfaced around the web as a side by side comparison to one taken by The Sartorialist. That put Lord Ashbury on the map.
Since then it’s grown from a New York street style blog into a global online destination showcasing the world’s most intriguing subjects – from Kanye West at Paris Fashion Week to strangers just enjoying their weekends. (Plus, I’ve never seen Bill Cunningham look more in love with his work than when in front of Simbarashe’s lens.)
As I watched Simbarashe’s face dazzle with emotion each time he spoke, I noticed the direct parallel between his work, eloquent demeanor and stylistic sense. All three embody exactly who he is – clear, precise and astonishingly real.
What truly makes his work stand out from the rest is Simbarashe’s natural ability to form a silent relationship with each individual he photographs. When you look through his photos, you don’t see people; you see a tapestry of sentiment woven carefully together with inspiration and saturated with passion.
Simple yet captivating, Simbarashe’s personal style stays in line with the notion that ‘less is more.’ As a self-professed “sock connoisseur,” Simbarashe places his focus on the minor details (a great tie, colorful socks) instead of cluttering the eye with messy distractions like flamboyant colors or trippy patterns.
Before our afternoon together ended, Simbarashe invited Sean and myself to join him and watch him in action as he captured New York’s finest.
If I had to sum the experience up with just one word?