Too Many Man: Photography, Women and Grime – Interview with Ellie Ramsden
Photographer Ellie Ramsden is changing the way we see women in the male-dominated world of grime.
I believe the saying, ‘a picture can tell a thousand words.’ Photographs have social and political relevance and tell us a lot about the world. They stir questions about what’s in the picture and who’s behind the camera. What are the things we choose to focus on? And what, or who, is missing?
Inspired by these questions, I caught up with Ellie Ramsden, a 24 year old photographer and videographer. We chatted about her journey into photography and her latest project ‘Too Many Man’ – a photo collection celebrating women in grime.
Tell me a little bit about your Too Many Man project – what is it and how did it come about?
Too Many Man is a project that documents women in the grime scene, from MCs to DJs, producers to radio presenters, videographers and journalists. Grime is a hugely male-dominated scene. Women are much less visible than men, often struggling to get the exposure and recognition they deserve. This project seeks to document their experiences of grime, and to celebrate their involvement in the scene. I’d been photographing underground music events for a couple of years before I started the project. I got in touch with The Grime Violinist and took some portraits of her in January 2017. I said something along the lines of “wouldn’t it be sick if I photographed all the women in the scene?” She said that would be great and the idea lingered. I photographed a few more females in the scene after this, and after I’d photographed and interviewed about 8-10 women I decided to make the project into a book.
We’re entering a pivotal time where equality is being talked about in many different spaces, yet there is still a lot of underlying judgment and ignorance. These women have a lot to say but don’t get taken seriously, because one: women aren’t taken as seriously as men in every industry, and two: grime has faced so much negative prejudice. You put the two together and you end up with people who are very intelligent but oppressed.
Some would argue that photography is a male-dominated space too. How did you get into it?
Growing up I was always very much into drawing and painting. I begged my parents for a camera and I was given a hand-me-down aged 10 or 11. I quickly realised I found it much more satisfying creating art through photography rather than drawing and painting, not because I didn’t love drawing, but because I felt I could express myself properly and document how I saw the world. I upgraded to a tiny digital camera in my teens, designating myself as the unofficial photographer for every house party I attended in secondary school. I embarked on the photography course at A Level, and last summer I graduated with a 2:1 in Editorial and Advertising Photography from the University of Gloucestershire.
Describe your photography style.
I think growing up in South East London is clearly conveyed throughout my work. I love the textures of an urban landscape: the grey concrete, peeling street art, and the geometric lines of Brutalist architecture. There’s something that feels real and raw about capturing the deterioration of the landscape around us. I document my passions, such as the London underground music scene and themes around feminism and equality.
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
There’s been so many. Sometimes I laugh at the places my camera has taken me… one night I’ll be in a packed out, sweaty grime rave, and the next day I’ll be at an RAF base. Photography has allowed me to meet people I never would have met, and to be in spaces I never would have otherwise been in, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. It has allowed me to explore other people’s lives, meet countless incredible musicians and artists, and make lifelong friendships.
What piece of advice would you give other young people trying to pursue a career in photography?
Try not to compare yourself to others. We’re living in a time where it’s so easy to see the moves other people are making on social media. It’s easy to feel that you’re getting left behind if you’re not constantly uploading content, but try not to let this get you down. Years ago artists used to work on a piece of art for months or years until it was perfect. There’s certainly a lot more pressure to put more work out now because we’re living in an ‘instant’ age but you don’t HAVE to put anything out if you’re not ready to. Sometimes it’s best to put less work out as long as it’s great work.
See more of Ellie over on her website www.ellieramsden.co.uk and on her Instagram @ellie_ramsden. Ellie’s working with Royal Photographic Society on their project Hundred Heroines. Check that out here. They’ve also opened their headquarters in Bristol. See that here.