Whilst grime has always had women flying its flag high, it’s clear that they have failed to get the recognition they’ve well and truly deserved.
It’s becoming ever clear though that there are many people who refuse to let the scene continue like this. Amongst all the new platforms and initiatives to raise the profile of women in grime is an exciting new project aptly titled Too Many Man.
Behind it is young, talented photographer Ellie Ramsden. Although early in her photography career, Ramsden has had her work featured in various galleries from the London, to Brighton to Canada. A photodocumentary, Too Many Man features women in grime working in all sorts of facets in the genre. It takes a deeper look at their experiences and aims to bring exposure to the unsung heroes of grime.
Clash caught up with Ellie Ramsden to discuss the problem in the grime and the hope for change.
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How did you get into photography?
I got into photography, because my dad and my brother always took photos whenever we went on holiday or out and about. I begged my parents for a camera and they just thought, Oh it’s another phase, she’ll get over it, she won’t want one soon. And I begged them and begged them. Then finally I got a hand me down, it was my gran’s old camera or something and I just started taking loads of pictures. Then it was like, oh okay, it’s not a phase, we’ll see.
I always loved art and started moving away from painting and drawing and I started taking more photographs. I took it up at sixth form and then I went to uni and just finished my degree in it.
Where did idea for Too Many Man come about from?
I’ve grown up around grime, I grew up in south-east London and I just started photographing some of the raves I was going to and the events maybe four or five years ago. From then I started taking some portraits. A few years ago, The Grime Violinist, Tanya, she followed me on Instagram and I’d never heard of her before, and I followed back. I thought: This girl’s amazing! I messaged her back saying, We should do a shoot, it would be really great to.
So we met up, while I was photographing her I said, "Wouldn’t it be great to focus on just women in grime music? Because they don’t get much attention." She was like: "Yeah that’s a great idea, you should definitely do it." Then it just sparked from there, and then I started contacting more women, shooting more people and it just kind of went on.
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What stage is the book currently at and have you encountered any challenges with the project?
Yes, it’s almost finished. I’ve been working on it for like a year and half now, but very on and off. I was doing my degree so I was doing it on the side. I was also out of London at the time so I was travelling back and forth. That did slow the whole process down but it’s really something that I’ve kept a passion for and I’ve wanted to carry on. I’ve just moved back to London so I’m finishing the last shoots now. I’m hoping it will be printed by the end of summer.
We’ve got a number of women in grime - artists, DJs and those working behind the scene. We’ve also recently seen an increasing number of projects dedicated to the cause of raising their profile such as the Girls in Grime project with Red Bull, the Girls of Grime set at Wireless. Do you think projects like this and yours can help make a case for change?
100% - I think what Girls of Grime are doing is amazing and obviously it’s quite a recent thing. I think it’s great what they’re doing. It’s really lovely to see women supporting each other. I think without women supporting each other, it’s not going to help the scene at all. I think that is the main thing we need to do, support each other.
Should the men in grime be doing more to address the problem?
Yes. I think they’re starting to. I think they’re starting to put women on their sets now, which is also great to see. Some are and some aren’t. I think guys can be a little oblivious to it. I think they like to be in their groups of guys and they’ll back their guys. That’s kind of just how it goes for them. They don’t really think about getting the women involved.
But I think some of them are now, I think especially Sharky Major is into helping Girls of Grime. So that’s really lovely to see. He runs the Grime Originals so he brought them in. Especially when the guys start to support more, that’s when we’ll see a change.
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Who has been the most interesting person you’ve spoken to in the photo-documetary so far?
There’s been so many. I wouldn’t be able to pick one out I don’t think. It’s really interesting, because I interviewed them all as well and I asked them what their experience of the scene was like, what challenges they faced. A lot of them have slightly different answers, it’s interesting to hear all of them.
I think Tanya, The Grime Violinist was really interesting, because she comes from a completely different background and she’s been accepted into the scene which is quite interesting because she was classicaly trained as a violinist. Then you get the people who have literally grown up in the tower blocks that have come from Bow like Lady Shocker. She’s come from Bow, she’s been in the scene a long time. It’s interesting to see people from different backgrounds and how they all come together. I think that’s really lovely.
Considering other similar counterparts such as the US hip-hop scene are also very male-dominated, are you hopeful that grime can change its ways?
I actually am. I think if you’d ask me that question a couple of years ago, I might have had a slightly different answer. But I think everything that’s happened recently, especially with Girls of Grime and the platforms that people are making. Everyday, more and more female talent is coming out. Everyday I find another female MC, and I think, oh my god, I need to get her in the book. So I think it is changing and I am quite hopeful actually.
What other projects are you lining up for the future?
I would always just love to carry on stuff with grime. Grime is in my heart. But I’ve started a 'zine called Time For Change, which looks at different issues that need changing in the UK. At the moment I’ve just done Issue One. So I finished that a few months ago. Issue One looks at sexism in the music industry, so it’s quite similar. But it looks at women from quite a wide variety of genres.
I did a little short film with that as well. So I’m hoping after the book finishes, I’ll carry the theme on and the short film on. I've got a few more things in the pipeline so let's wait and see.
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Support Ellie Ramsden's Too Many Man project HERE.
Words: Nikita Rathod / Twitter
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