How being an outsider shapes a meaningful path, with Simon Wheatley

What does it feel like to be immersed in a scene documenting the rise of the UK's most important musical genre since punk? Simon Wheatley is an acclaimed photographer who did just that, capturing grime culture as it happened.

His subsequent book Don't Call Me Urban! The Time of Grime was released in 2010, offering a fascinating insight into that world through music portraiture, reportage and architectural imagery. It shot to the top of the book charts and was immediately hailed as a classic of British documentary photography. Since then, Simon has continued his work around the grime scene – also as a filmmaker – and he is currently editing for a more comprehensive book that will cover the genre's evolution up to the present day.

Amongst Simon's career highlights have been a spectacular spell with the Magnum agency – producing groundbreaking work from the French suburbs after the riots of 2005 – and being selected as the worldwide ambassador for the launch of Leica's legendary M-series camera in 2006. In 2018, he was invited to be the in-house photographer at London's Abbey Road Studios.

Over the past decade, Simon has divided his time between London and India, the land of his maternal ancestry, where he has continued his photography and studied yogic philosophy and music. He also carries out workshops worldwide and is developing a course of photography that seeks to combine physical, mental and spiritual development.

A self-proclaimed outsider, we wanted to know more about how his childhood, moving between the varying cultures of Singapore and England, and how that experience shaped him as a person. We asked what it was like to attend a Surrey boarding school where he didn't really fit in and what led him to documentary photography, finding a sense of belonging in London. There's a lot we cover. It's a humbling conversation with a gentle, curious soul that today embraces his many quirks and traits – something we can all aspire to.

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