A Conversation with UK Grime Photographer Vicky Grout
Skepta. Stormzy. Novelist. The list goes on and on. You probably wouldn’t see the UK’s second wave of grime the way you do if it wasn’t for the lens of Vicky Grout. At just 20-years-old, the London-based photographer has made a name for herself by befriending some of the genre’s most illustrious artists and capturing their raw energy with a distinctive visual vocabulary. Meanwhile, Vicky has also ventured into the fields of street and fashion photography – so we sat down for a little chat to talk inspiration, technology and passion.
Hi Vicky, thanks for taking the time out. What have you been up to lately? Please fill us in on some of your current projects.
Lately I have been working on a few personal projects that touch on issues I feel strongly about, which I will be releasing soon, as well as managing the photography side of things for PUSH magazine.
What got you into photography in the first place? Do you have a “my first camera” story?
I’ve always liked photos and imagery, but I guess I properly started taking photos when I was around 13/14 when I came across my family’s old holiday camera – an Olympus Stylus Epic – and would take it to gigs I went to and take candid shots of friends.
I have so many! But some of my favorite photographers have got to be:
Ashley Verse – Ashley’s been heavily involved in the grime scene since day dot and is one of the few people authentically documenting the movement.
Ronan McKenzie – Ronan shoots people so beautifully; you can really sense a connection between herself and her subjects.
Tyler Mitchell – Tyler’s analog work has always inspired me; there’s something very artistic about his work that makes it so beautiful to look at.
Is photography all DIY for you, or did you actually study it? At what point did you realize that this was the road you were going to take professionally?
All DIY! It actually wasn’t an option at either my school or college to study it, so I kind of just taught myself through trial and error and looking at other peoples work and seeing what I liked and what I didn’t like. I actually was planning on pursuing graphic design, but during the summer before my degree I was starting to get commissions from shooting raves I was going to and portraits of friends, so I never ended up going.
It definitely paid off though, right? You’ve pretty much turned your hobby into a job over the past couple of years. Does the professional side ever bother you in taking away the fun from photography itself?
Every now and again there will be that money job that may not be 100% aligned with your passion, but that’s something that will come with every creative career path, especially when you’re starting out.
You still shoot a lot of pictures with analog equipment. Why do you choose that path and what are the advantages that you see for your workflow and aesthetic?
Yeah, when I first started shooting it was all on film, and it wasn’t until I started working for myself full time that I started to shoot digital as it was cost effective. However, as time went on I realized that I just way prefer the look and process of film, and no matter how much I’d play around with my digital images in post to make them look analog, it just wasn’t the same. For me, film has a certain character that isn’t very easily – if at all – replicated. I also love the excitement of not really knowing how the images are going to turn out and waiting for the scans to come back.
What’s your favorite equipment you are using these days?
Lately I’ve been shooting a lot on a Pentax 67, it’s a pretty big piece of equipment (especially as I’m very small) but shoots beautiful portraits.
If I’m honest, I don’t tend to shoot on my phone too much! Before I was shooting so much I would, but now I’ve usually got a camera in my hand – even if it’s just a point and shoot – and end up forgetting about my phone. This is definitely something I’d like to try to do more though, as I think it’s nice for others to see more behind the scenes of some of my shoots sometimes, as it adds a different side to it that you may not usually see – unless you were there.
“Being there” surely is something that has been especially important during the early stages of your career too. As someone who’s closely associated with the grime movement, how did getting into that culture influence your work?
I’ve always loved music, and by photographing it I can allow myself to get even closer to it. One thing I have learned from being so deeply rooted in the grime movement is how artists have been able to turn a struggle into something positive and inspiring. This has also motivated me to want to touch on social issues through my work and to shed light on problems within our society by using the voice I have.
It’s always great to see creativity being used to do something like that! Are there any projects you still would love to realize? Let’s say, dream scenario photography job – what would the situation be like?
I would definitely love to have the opportunity to travel the world and do documentary and street photography in amazing places. That and shoot Chance the Rapper!
Your hometown of London is internationally known for its thriving music, fashion and creative scenes. What kind of impact does the city have on your personal style and taste?
My main passion first and foremost is music. Music has always been a big part of my life, and being able to shoot it and document it is definitely what keeps me going. The amount of incredible artists coming out of not only the UK but London over the past few years is mad.
What do you love most about London, and what do you hate most about the city?
What I love most about London has got to be the creativity and drive. What I hate the most is how many people there are and the rudeness.
Off to a lighter topic then: Which trainers are currently in your own sneaker rotation?
Those would have to be my triple black Nike Air Max 97s, baby blue adidas Campus, grey Nike Uptempos, Basement x Nike Dunks and my VaporMax.
Dope selection! What are your all-time favorite sneakers?
They’re constantly changing, but at the moment it’s a tie between the Silver Bullet 97s and the Basement Dunks.
Don’t be a dickhead!
Follow Vicky Grout on Instagram
This story first appeared in SNEAKERS MAG #38 – Released in April 2018