#WHOARETHEY: Vicky Grout
Vicky is a photographer based in London, UK, shooting predominantly on analogue, who specializes in portraiture, music, and street photography. Vicky found her footing shooting the various shows and concerts she went to when she was younger, and that love of music grew into attending raves and underground dance scenes with her camera in tow. UK Grime is a part of the underground music scene in London, and while Vicky documented that section of music in 2014, Grime experienced a resurgence in popularity in London and then worldwide. Vicky’s work took off along with Grime and positioned her as a bold, prominent figure in photographic talent.
On a recent trip to Europe, I was able to meet up with Vicky in Brixton, London to shoot for her Who Are They feature.
Where are you from, and where do you reside now?
I was born in Warsaw, Poland and lived there until I was 4, then moved to London and have been living here ever since!
What was your first interaction or experience with anything related to art?
Probably bring 4/5 years old, and constantly just making things out of paper, cards, making houses out of boxes, painting on everything. I was obsessed with making miniature things i.e. books etc.
When did you first pick up a camera? Who or what influenced you to dive into this medium and analog photography as well?
I first picked up a camera when I was about 10, my godmother had a dslr and I was fascinated by the way it took photos. Then later on when I was around 13/14 I picked up my dads old 35mm point + shoot (Olympus mju ii) and started taking it everywhere with me. These times I would try to sneak it into shows I was going to at the time, taking candids of friends and creating mini photo diaries which I would then upload onto my Flickr or Tumblr.
What type of discipline did it take to keep practicing and getting to know your craft, or to learn photography all together?
Photography wasn’t an option to study at my school or college, so I’ve had to learn everything either through trial and error or through watching videos on YouTube. I think what kept me going was that for years this was my side hobby/hustle while I was studying or working in retail. I think the fact that there was no pressure or time constraint on it let me learn at my own pace. Also my passion for both photography and documenting music allowed me to continue.
Your photo style reads as tough, but shows subtle emotional vulnerabilities in a way that makes me want to know more about the subjects. The distinct style in which you capture photos has caught the eye of people not just in the UK, but in many other countries. What was the moment for you when things just sort of clicked, and your photo work took off?
I started (without realising) documenting the UK Grime/music scene towards the end of 2014, which was when the genre really started to get attention again. I think because I happened to be shooting a genre of music that people have started taking an interest in again, as well as gaining a whole new gen of listeners, people were starting to see my work at the same time.
What made you initially interested in capturing the music scene in London? Did you ever think your career would move so quickly to become the biggest name in grime photography in London or does it feel like the pieces naturally came together?
I didn’t anticipate it at all. It was quite a gradual process really, but it kind of all took off at once. I used to go to loads of shows and concerts from the age of 14 and would always try to take my camera with me, just so that I could have something to keep from the show. It wasn’t until I was about 17 that I started going to raves and underground music events. I’ve always been into underground dance music and Grime was a part of that family, so when I started going to these raves and experiencing the music live, I knew this was where I was meant to be.
What are you looking forward to working on this year or where are you looking forward to traveling to this year?
This year I’m looking forward to really putting the time aside to work on some personal projects and ideas I’ve been working on. I think I forget to put in the time for that sometimes because the music part of my work doesn’t really feel like work. Also I’m traveling to a few exciting places this year. I’m going to both Palestine and Marrakech this month, and hopefully Barcelona, New York and Croatia later in the year too. I didn’t get to travel too much last year so I’m definitely going to make up for it this year. There’s nothing more important than seeing the world.
Do you have a favorite type of set or work environment to be in?
I like a mixture really, I used to be all about shooting outdoors with natural light but over the past couple of years I’ve really grown to love shooting in studio as well. There’s something I still love so much about shooting artists performing in a very intimate space as well.
What artists or photographers do you admire or give credit to for shaping pieces of your artistic perspective?
I think early on in my career I didn’t really look to many other photographer’s work, I was researching music and that was my main focus, I would just sort of shoot. However over the past few years I’ve been so inspired by so many photographers, such as Campbell Addy, Tyler Mitchell, Renell Medrano, Ronan McKenzie, Nadine Ijewere.
What are you excited to learn about next? What is a new skill you’re practicing or researching?
Something I’m really keen to start learning about is video, at the moment the concept of it is just a minefield to me! However it’s something I’m definitely interested in learning.
Do you have any advice on how to stay serious and focused, without forgetting to take breaks, stay inspired, and to keep absorbing information?
I think the most important thing, and the key to starting inspired/motivated, is that whatever you do, you need to be passion about it. Whether it’s the craft itself, or the subject matter, it needs to be your undying passion, otherwise your love and interest for it will eventually die out. It’s important to have a balance of personal/passionate work and client work of course, but you need to make sure not EVERYTHING you do feels like “work”.