'DON'T CALL ME URBAN! The Time of Grime' is a photographic record compiled over a 12 year period, focussing on the youth of London's inner-city at a vital time, taking as its prism the genre of grime - the most significant and controversial musical expression to emerge from the UK since punk. Grime was essentially the UK's own authentic response to hip hop, an angst-ridden, confrontational music conveying the hopes and frustrations of an apolitical generation locked into decaying housing estates. The book is a visual reflection of what grime represented, chronicling the conditions that spawned the genre. It is a combination of music portraiture, social documentary and architectural photography.
Many black youths reject the 'urban' label that has been imposed on them by commerce and the media. There is a significant discrepancy between perceptions of black culture as 'cool' and the often-harsh reality of being born black on a London council estate. 'Don't Call me Urban!' takes us through the raw environment from which the new stars of British popular music, such as Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder emerged, and introduces us to many other hopefuls who remain stranded in bedroom studios, hidden amongst concrete blocks glamorized in countless music videos. 'The Time of Grime' is an era when 'clashing' and postcode warfare have emerged, when young lives have fallen victim to absurdly trivial disputes, when rampant material aspiration collides with grim social reality. The book is a unique and penetrating document of an era in which London's inner-city youth has veered out of control.
Born in Singapore in 1970, Simon Wheatley found photography on the streets of post‐communist Budapest in his early twenties, and began photographing London’s council estates in 1998. Attracted initially by a controversial urban regeneration scheme on Lambeth Walk, the work evolved into a study of the youth. His assignments for the underground music magazine, Rewind (RWD), beginning in 2004, facilitated contacts that enabled him to chronicle the grime scene that had begun to burgeon in London. At this time he was also working on another project around regeneration at Elephant and Castle. ‘DON’T CALL ME URBAN! The Time of Grime’ therefore represents an assemblage of work that has evolved over the last decade.
He also lived for some time in Amsterdam and his body of work entitled Liberal Limits glimpses the end of an era in which Holland’s ‘liberal’ façade crumbled with the country’s political swing towards the right. From the end of 2005 he worked over the course of a year on a project in suburban France in the wake of the banlieue riots that had raged across the country. He was initially assigned there by Time magazine, via Magnum Photos, the agency he had entered that year. Since exiting in 2008 he has mainly been in Calcutta, exploring his maternal ancestry while engaged in a study of yoga and its philosophy. He continues to photograph.