Gatherly are a small creative group who I was lucky enough to have help fund the Scene of the Crime project. I was interviewed by Lee for their features page.
See the original interview HERE
Hey mate, would be great if you could introduce yourself - your name, where you’re from and what you do for a living?
My name’s Scott Grummett, I’m a photographer and director from… I guess I would say I’m from Cambridge that's kind of where I grew up but I’m now living in London and I photograph food and still life.
Where did your passion for photography come from? And when? Do you remember the moment when you realised photography could be your future?
Umm… I don't know really I’ve always drawn and done arty stuff. I did photography at AS level in Cambridge and then dropped it because I didn’t really know what I could do with it, so I went and did English and the got really bored. I didn’t turn up for my second year and just started going out and taking pictures. I left sixth form with really bad A levels, went and worked in pubs for a couple of years. I then realised that I didn’t want to do that so then made up a portfolio and applied for a Photography Degree at NUA Norwich and got in. I guess it was me doing something I didn’t want to do that made me realise that I wanted to get into photography. I filled my portfolio with shots I took of mate’s bands and photos I'd taken on a trip to Rome.
I’ve been checking out your work the past few weeks, all the way back to your university days. You’ve toyed with a range of different subjects; do you label yourself as working in a particular area of photography?
[Laughing], I’d do anything if the money or the job is right…. Food is more of the business I would say; it’s my bread and butter what pays the bills. Still life is fun, I get to blow things up, put stuff in ice and set fire to things. Yeah I would always say food and still life. I do a bit of directing now also. There’s always odd bits, like I’m going out in September to shoot a private island which should be good fun, so you know if the right thing comes up I’ll shoot it.
Did your work gradually evolved to focus on food and still life or has it always been an area you’ve been interested in?
Yeah I always liked it at college. Everybody else was out shooting portraits and fashion, I didn’t really go for that, I quite liked being sat in a dark corner in the studio on my own which is a bit sad, but it just meant that I could tweak things a bit more and have a little bit more control. At college when I was learning I didn’t want to get into those factors of relying of other people when trying to take pictures, like when you’ve got models and everything else involved, it can take the control out of your hands and puts it into other peoples. Which is why I loved still life because it was just me doing my thing.
Is there one particular subject you enjoy shooting most?
I love food [Laughting] I do get a lot of enjoyment shooting that. It has it's perks.
Love for food… When did that start?
Well I wanted to be a chef, just before I started my A levels I thought about doing that, I cook a lot when I’m at home and have done since I was like ten with the family. Photographing food has been a business decision, the industry is so busy and with still life becoming more and more CGI. Before I would get a job to photograph a phone, now someone will just CGI a phone. Where as food has to be food, you can’t CGi a fish finger. It's never that appetising.
The one thing I love most about your photography is it’s polished, almost graphic aesthetic. Obviously the technical aspects of photography are very apparent in your work, how important was studying photography at university and how has it helped your professional career?
Yeah uni was definitely worth me doing at the time, it allowed me to have funds in place for me to just go and invest in shoots and get into photography and do what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t do it now! (with the higher tuition fees) It’s too much money. Actually you don’t necessarily have to spend all that money and go to uni, you can assist and learn. It’s a slower process in your own work but you can learn quicker this way. I don’t want to big Norwich up too much. The course was good having technicians like Tony, Ben and Pete, they where great, but a lots changed there. It used to be an amazing course when the place was about teaching, but unfortunately it's become a bit more of a business. Uni gave me a head start when I came out as an assistant but I think I could learn it on the job. I could have made the tea’s for three years and learnt just as much. That's what i'd recommend for anyone starting out now.
Before we talk through your new project, I remember seeing this photograph hanging up at university, was this a defining moment in the early days of ‘Scott Grummett’ as a photographer? Or was there a piece you had noticed throughout the industry around this time? (Chicken Photo)
The chicken photo yes, but the Drum images was the point where I noticed how much I loved still life and controlling lighting. The drums always get picked up and I can’t really take them out of my book even though they are uni work, and years on now I kind of think that there’s just shots will stay with me for my whole career. The chicken will be around but it was weird because I just didn’t know what to do with it as an image. It’s a single image not part of any series.
Okay, lets talk about your new project ‘Scene of the Crime’. Tell me about your idea and its origins? What has inspired the project most?
Scene of the crime is a project inspired by the NYPD Municipal archive. A cache of photographs spanning from the 1800’s to the present day, of crime scenes as documented by police photographs. The collection includes images from the evidence room of robberies and murders, most from the 1920’s to 1940’s. Also influenced by photographers like Weegee who installed police radios so they could get to the scene before the police to get shots for the newspapers, he was kind of the most famous for it at the time. So the project is kind of loosely based on those and re-creating this graphic imagery of the diseased where its not horribly gruesome but quite delicate. There’s a story involved, I wanted to produce a series of crime scene images where you’re not freaked out by the violence but you can piece things together about what may have happened.
It’s a strange one because its 100% contrived and no way is it trying to be real.
How long have you been preparing and planning this story? Where do you start when arranging such a big production? Actors/models? Location?
Oh god, I had the idea well over a year ago but nothing came of it until I got my ass in gear just over Christmas. Then you guys at Gather.ly got involved and made the project idea a reality with a little bit of support.
Definitely location is the first one to sort out, I had shots in my mind of what I wanted it look like, and so finding a location that works is the hardest thing. I wanted to find somewhere that’s timeless in London, somewhere that’s real, not a place that’s dressed as vintage or retro and trying to be something which is why Balham Bowls Club location is some amazing because it re-opened as it was and truly is vintage. Casting actors/models I contacted BMA and sent through the brief and explained what I was up to, this was the first time I had used the agency and I ended up with some great faces that fit perfectly into my vision. Tired faces and characters was what I was looking for.
Your brief that you first sent me at Gather.ly was very meticulous and beautifully translated onto paper. You put so much detail into how you wanted the viewer to feel upon viewing the final images, is this how you always approach a project? Or has this one been different?
Yeah this one has been completely different, because normally its just me and I don’t have to convince anyone else to come on board with it, where as if your going to someone and saying - yeah I’ve got this idea for a thing – they have to trust what your telling them. So with my brief I wanted to give the people I was contacting something complete and concise so they understood what the outcome would be. It was quite nice because most of the team didn’t know I did still life or food, they had just seen the project idea and gone for it. This isn’t the way I normally work at all, but for this project it worked and was worth doing.
I loved these couple of sentences from your brief explaining what you wanted to shoot - “Not paying any attention to the gore of the violence. But to the emotions and the narrative associated with it”. This to me sounded hard to grasp at first, but after reading on, the idea of steering the attention away from the brutality of a murder scene and creating a narrative piece became really interesting. Was this for any particular reason? Or are you not very good with blood? [Laughing]
To me that was beautiful about the original images, there was a tenderness, but also I don’t like horror films based on the fact that I don’t find them scary I just find them gory. Where as if you get a physiological thriller where it’s more about what’s going on in your head and little clues to stuff, I always find that more interesting and more intense than somebody who’s just their head cut off.
So… How’d the shoot go on the day? Must seem pretty weird planning for so long, then it’s all over within two days? Are you happy with the results? Any hic-ups? (Speak about casting)
Yeah it was quite strange. I had a really good team and everybody was relaxed on set. There was a few people that I’ve worked with before which always helps. Its not always that often that people can get excited about working on a big project, wanting to chip in and bring their own ideas to the characters and the story. Where as when your working on something more corporate you don’t get as much enthusiasm on that kind of shoot. It was nice because the team wanted to be there for the project as opposed for money.
As for being happy with the shots you're never happy, you know that. You’re happy for ten minutes, then miserable, then happy again, then miserable, then you look at it two days later an think ah this is shit what have I done [Laughing] This has tortured me actually because I’ve looked at the images so many times, particularly the one of the couple just didn’t fit for me at all for a while and I didn’t like it. I had to tweak a few things in post for it to fit in. So yeah I’m never entirely happy and I don’t think you ever should be. I’m starting to think it’s half-baked and maybe I should add three more shots at some point? So I’ve got to think about that. I have got another location in mind that I’ve started to arrange. So if I can get those images in the story I think I will be content with the story. Content is always enough, it leaves you able to make the next project better.
How has Gather.ly’s involvement with ‘Scene of the Crime’ helped you realise your goals for the project?
Well I’m just not sure if it would have happened otherwise, having an idea and making it exist are two completely different things. With Gather.ly’s involvement my idea now exists in the world, which is very exciting.
What’s next for you?
My better half makes bespoke wedding dresses, evening gowns and gets all sorts of interesting commissions. Recently she has found a niche creating outfits for Cos players, these guys who go to sci-fi conventions dressed as super hero’s and these amazing kits that they’ve taken years to try and perfect so she’s making these kind of outfits for the people that go. So I’m thinking about doing a portrait series on some of these people, also look at the people that role-play or ‘Larpers’. Shooting portraits of these middle aged men with foam swords and armour in fields fighting with cardboard dragons. It will never get me any work but it would be kind of an interesting project. Otherwise I hope to take Scene of the Crime further and keep working on some interesting commissions directing and snapping.