Asha is one of those creative souls that is very easy to be around. But she’s not one to be messed with. She grew her passion of photography into the business of managing artists on tour, running an art collective and directing multiple projects. We met up with Asha inside her Bushwick studio to see what magic happens behind the lens. And what we got to see was a truly authentic, unapologetic, independent woman (my favorite kind) who clearly puts in the work.
Blush: What led to the creation of CENO.NYC?
Asha: My brother, Elijah Maura, and I have always been creative partners. Since we were little we’ve done projects and just enjoyed working on things together. We’re generally just on the same page all the time about how we feel about art and community and combining both. So basically we decided to do something together with our other partner Elias Paulson. And it slowly turned into CENO. We’re still figuring out what exactly it is. Everyday I think it becomes a bit more realized. But it stemmed from just wanting to create things with our friends and put people on a platform they felt comfortable with. Now we have a media company on our hands which is super sick and exciting.
B: How do you balance the business of running an art collective with continuing to pursue the passion side of photography and directing?
A: That’s a great question, honestly. Well a lot of the time I’m directing within the collective. That’s my creative roll in CENO. So it just kind of flows into being a part of it. I really love directing. I love photography as well but I did it for so long I think I’ve just grown with my passions. I’m still working constantly to figure out the balance. I need something that’s just for me. Something outside of any collective or other people’s input. Otherwise I kind of go crazy eventually. I try to have directing be that but I often feel like it always turns into a collaborative effort (which I love). Basically, I haven’t figured out the balance quite yet but I’m working on it all the time and feel like I’m getting closer and closer. I’ll get back to you in like 5 years when I’ve got it all figured out [laughs].
B: You recently launched the music video for TALK with no budget- just the help of friends and community. What advice do you have for others that are looking to create without necessarily having a huge budget?
A: I’ve done more of my work with no budgets then with budgets. I grew up pretty broke so it’s easy for me to stretch money and be creative financially. I think I’ve become the queen of the low budget honestly [laughs]. My advice would be to just create good work. If you have a camera you can create, if you have a brain you can create – you don’t need money to make it happen. It definitely helps, but you don’t need it. Surround yourself with people you believe in and who equally believe in you. If everyone works and puts their skills together you’d be surprised to see you have it all right there. That’s what I think the youth really needs to take control of. We have the power. We are the creatives that these publications and labels and brands need. Hold on to that.
B: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: My days are usually so different. Currently in this seasonal depression of a 7 month winter, I’m just trying to get through the days. I work for myself so my schedule is all over the place. I am mostly just spending time with the people I love, drinking a beer and brainstorming on our next project. I spend a lot of time in my studio. It’s like my safe space. It’s the only place I feel like I get anything done.
I go on tour a lot with musicians. On tour, I manage and document. I’m heading out with Show Me the Body again soon, which I’m looking forward to because I hate being in the same place for a long time.
B: What characteristic do you most admire in other creative women?
A: I love when creative women are just badasses. When they’re unapologetic and also don’t ride being a woman as a crutch or advantage. I think as a woman, it’s my goal to just be looked at as a professional. I want people to know I’m the best at what I do whether I’m a man, woman, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. Just be the shit and not have to talk about why.
B: Where do you look for daily inspiration? Any podcasts/digital inspo/people/etc.?
A: I don’t really. I just surround myself with creative people and call it a day. I can’t really be on the internet a lot.
B: What music puts you in a creative/inspired mood?
A: Since I’ve worked in the music industry, I haven’t had to look for music in a long time. Literally every person around me is constantly showing me or playing new music. In all truthfulness, all I’ve been listening to lately while I’m working are the CENO mixes. Elijah curates a weekly mix from different people in our community on Soundcloud and I love them. I’m not even trying to plug us in. I just stay listening to them.
B: Do you have any self-care rituals that help keep you grounded?
A: I take really long showers and I sit in the shower and put the bath stopper in. So I just take shower baths [laughs]. That really feels like “My time”. That’s all I’ve got though. I spent a lot of years doing my hair and make up all the time, dressing up all the time and I’m really enjoying just not really caring lately. I feel like I’m taking care of myself by just caring less about what other people think.
B: Being a young woman in the business world, it can be tough to navigate addressing discrepancies of any kind. It can be hard to distinguish when you’re putting in your time vs. when you’re being taken advantage of. What advice do you have to help girls overcome the fear of sticking up for themselves?
A: If you don’t stick up for yourself, literally nothing will change. You will have this overwhelming feeling in the pit of your stomach until the moment you do. I often have a hard time speaking up and I let it bottle up. I don’t want people to think I’m being difficult or emotional or I just expect people to just not take advantage and that usually just doesn’t happen. You have to say what you feel. Most of the time people just need to hear it, and will often agree with you. They just weren’t thinking about it the way you were. This year, I actually told myself I’m not holding anything in anymore. I don’t care if I come off difficult because I know I truly am not and I’m just fighting for my worth and that I am the only person that is going to do that.
B: What advice do you have for young photographers and entrepreneurs reading this?
A: Just keep doing your thing! Don’t do it for Instagram. Do it for yourself. Learn how to shoot film. Learn your actual camera settings. Don’t only use a point and shoot, it’s boring and doesn’t make you a photographer. Work hard and have fun. That’s what it’s all about.
B: What projects are you looking forward to taking on next?
A: I’m starting a record label with Show Me the Body. It’s called CORPUS. It’s been really great so far. We created an 8 episode web series called CORPUS TV. We just put out a project with TrippJones. We’re putting out one with Dreamcrusher soon and we have some summer shows that I think are going to be amazing. So I’m really just excited to be a big part of that and see what it becomes this year.