It’s safe to say that grime has captivated an audience on mass. From British school kids to Kanye West, its fans respond to the honest tone of the genre that has been missing in British music since punk’s demise. It’s a growth that i-D features editor Hattie Collins and photographer Olivia Rose felt the need to document, but most importantly celebrate. This Is Grime is an oral history of the genre and with Skepta winning the Mercury Prize last week, its release couldn’t be more timely or necessary.
One factor of grime’s success is down to its charisma. “It’s the energy, I believe,” says Hattie. “It all comes back to the energy and the self-belief of being so proudly and utterly British. This music, this culture, this lifestyle could only ever have come from working class Britain at the time it did. Kids born into the ravages and destruction of Thatcher and Reagan’s ruling years, influenced by post 9/11 and UK garage and a punk mentality. It was a perfect storm of influences and ideas, stories and sounds and somehow, some way, that became grime.”
This energy is infectious; once Hattie and Olivia started a conversation about the book, the process moved very quickly. “I’d had the idea for the book for quite a while and when I mentioned it to Liv, it literally took on a life of its own,” Hattie explains. “We went from an initial planning meeting to getting a book deal and shooting within a matter of weeks. From there, we spent 153 days shooting 171 people! Essentially, I wanted to create something that documented the scene as faithfully and as respectfully as possible.”
The art direction of Olivia Rose’s photographs is entirely intuitive, as the project is a first, in terms of documenting grime in print. “I tend to not use references at all,” says Olivia, “for me, it takes away from the organic nature of just turning up, feeling out the situation as you shoot.” However, Olivia researched the way grime had previously archived in order to scope out what to avoid: “I didn’t want to shoot MC’s MCing on stage because that had already been documented so brilliantly.” Olivia also felt the need to shoot in a way that would separate This Is Grime from images the audience could view on Instagram. The decision to shoot in black and white and display the images as negatives is representative of the genre’s honesty – there is no hiding.
Following the overly positive reception the book has received, Hattie and Olivia hope their publication will encourage further representations of music. “There are so many more stories to be told. I hope this book encourages other people to create their own, so in five years we can fill a library or a bookstore shelf with this beautiful culture."
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