As more than just a genre of music, photography plays a vital role in the way that Grime has spread through the hearts and minds of young people throughout the UK and beyond. Through the photography of people like Simon Wheatley, Ewen Spencer, Tim and Barry – distributed in publications such as RWD Mag – kids everywhere would learn the Grime way of life, the fashion, the attitude.
It’s not surprising therefore, that half of the story of seminal Grime book, THIS IS GRIME, is told through it’s imagery. Alongside the oral history collected by legendary Grime journalist Hattie Collins, the all new black-and-white imagery of Olivia Rose captures a snapshot of where Grime is at in 2016. The award winning portrait photographer emerged herself in the scene for five months; from chasing Skepta as his success continues to snowball to seeking out enigmatic heroes like Durrty Goodz.
In the first of two interviews we’ve conducted on the making of THIS IS GRIME, we caught up with Olivia Rose to discuss the photography in the book – from challenges faced along the way to her favourite shots…
When did you first get involved with THIS IS GRIME?
Hattie’s obviously had the idea in her head for 15 years, but we worked on a “Ten Years Later” Grime portfolio for I-D last year in the Summer. We did a three day Grime shoot, and I think it was because Hattie saw that I got along with the guys really well, I’m happy to smoke a joint and just be chilled about things. It was after that that Hattie was like “Shall we do a book?” And I was like “F**k it, yeah let’s do a book.”
The idea was solidified somewhere last year, then we hooked up with the publishers in January. And then the book is now out! So it’s been a very short turnaround.
A lot of other similar books aren’t shot by the same photographer – but this has a really nice cohesion because all of the images come from one person. How important do you think that was?
I think in many ways you could have created a book as beautiful or more beautiful, had you used lots of different photographers and all of the archive shots. And I’m sure there are people out there feeling like that’s missing from the book. But for us it was about documenting this moment in time right now, the beginning of 2016 where everything’s gone international, there’s this massive resurgence. And i think for us it was about documenting that as a whole. From an aesthetic point of view, one of the reasons I shot everything in black and white – apart from the fact that it gives things a certain gravitas – was because I’m shooting all of these people, we have a short turnaround. If I’m shooting in colour we’re going to have to think about another six elements when we come to design this thing, on top of just what images can sit together. So for me it quite important that it was me shooting the whole thing. It comes across now as a really amazing body of work, and I think specifically, it documents this one time.