The rising photographer has tapped into the beating heart of South London’s youth culture. He talks to HUNGER about documenting the mosh pits, concerts and raves that represent his community.
Callum Malcolm-Kelly might only be 21 years old, but he acts like he’s running out of time – juggling a day job, a burgeoning creative agency and endless personal projects. Over the years, he has combined his passions for youth culture and photography by turning his lens onto jostling crowds at raves and documenting up-and-coming musicians. But while he might claim to be just an “observer”, he’s quick to jump into the fray, with just his camera (and instincts) to guide him.
Let’s start with an easy one – how did you get into photography?
I was kind of just documenting the people I was hanging with. A lot of it was capturing the moments that people don’t see about young people and the things that, if you had an outsider’s perspective, you wouldn’t really understand. My friends loved music and they’d be spitting bars out on a night out [and by capturing that] through some of my photography I found a way of highlighting the talent in south-east London, where I’m from. [The area] is a melting pot for creativity, and I think that’s what drives a lot of what I do.
What does community mean to you?
I’ve been in a lot of different communities. It’s about the culture, the music, the lifestyle. For me, if I walk around south London, I know I’ll bump into someone and I know where I can go to see a few old friends. That’s what community is, it’s about bringing people back together so that even if you haven’t seen someone for years you can still have a conversation about what’s going on right now.
Has the pandemic changed the way you approach your photography? I know a lot of your work pre-COVID-19 was focused on live music and club culture, but people aren’t coming together as much now.
Before, it was more just me being out and about and having fun with it, enjoying photography and being at the craziest concerts, the biggest mosh pits and the small little raves. It wasn’t about capturing people, it was about capturing the energy and the vibe of London. Post-lockdown I’ve completely shifted. I’ve really had to think about who the people I’m working with are and what my work represents.
I was really interested to see the photos you’d taken at London’s Black Lives Matter protests on your Instagram page. What was the story behind these images?
Something inside me just needed to be there. I took my camera and went my own way through the crowds, which was one of the most empowering things I’ve done all year. Not being able to be out and take photos, and then, all of a sudden, there’s a mass of people and this overwhelming emotion and power, which I’d never experienced growing up in London. I didn’t realise how muted and silenced a lot of young Black people and people of colour had been until this point. [My approach] was literally, “Where’s the noisiest part of the crowd? I’m going there.”
It seems like your work captures those moments of joy when Black people and other people of colour don’t have to mute themselves. Is that intentional?
That’s just a natural part of what’s going on, a movement that has been going on for ages. My photography over the past few years hasn’t been about race but it has been about a vibe. That vibe was predominantly coming from young Black kids who are trying to just feed off opportunities. It’s all about hustling. South-east London isn’t the nicest of areas, but it has a lot going for it in terms of raw authentic talent. That’s why you see all this drill music coming through, there are so many articulate young people who are just pushed to the side and marked as ignorant, which is totally wrong. We probably know more than the rest of society, because we’ve seen the bottom and the top as well.
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20 January 2021