How does ADHD affect one of the UK’s leading photographers?

The following article is an interview conducted by The Mind Map, an innovative mental health organisation, navigating individuals and organisations to better mental health through counselling, journalism, signposting and Mental Health First Aid Training.

Snapping the likes of Skepta, photographer Vicky Grout made her name documenting Britain’s Grime. She is now one of the UK’s leading portrait, music, fashion and street photographers.

Back in May 2020, Vicky hosted a series of Instagram lives for The Mind Map, exploring how the pandemic has been affecting her fellow creatives. In an interview with Sasha Keeble, Vicky explored her Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD.

We caught back up with Vicky over email to find out how she manages her ADHD, her favourite shoots and the culture consumption that’s been carrying her through lockdown.

Can you tell us a little about your ADHD and how it affects you?     

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my ADHD.

There are times when I feel it helps me, especially in my line of work (energy, chattiness, people skills etc) and there are times (mostly these times) when it can be a hindrance (procrastination, struggling to initiate projects, time management, inability to concentrate).

But everyday, I am learning more and more about ADHD which makes me feel less alone, and also helps me to manage it.

Could you tell us, when did you get get diagnosed?

I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 18. That’s a bit annoying as I probably could have gotten help at school had I been diagnosed earlier.

Growing up in Poland, my mum took me on countless trips to the doctor because I wouldn’t sleep.

But every time they would just say I was “fine”. I think there’s also a problem with undiagnosed ADHD among girls. As it’s often considered a “boy’s thing”.

What helps your condition?

To concentrate, I need complete silence, sometimes I might listen to some calm music (instrumentals only, no words!). But normally silence works better.

I have also realised that coffee is really, really bad for me. I get really jittery and it triggers my anxiety. So I avoid it now. I’ve also been trying to meditate on and off for the past few years. But never consistently. It does help though.

What do you think are the misconceptions of ADHD?

The main misconception of ADHD is that the person is overly hyperactive, all of the time.

There are definitely times when I get little surges of energy, but mostly it’s just an immense struggle to concentrate on most things. I think that there are also a lot of traits typical of ADHD that a lot of people would brush off as just “laziness”, but in reality it’s a lot more complex than that.

How has the pandemic affected your mental health?

The pandemic has affected my mental health in ways I hadn’t even realised at first.

I personally have been fortunate enough to have a roof over my head and a healthy family. But being left alone with my thoughts has affected me the most. Realising I have been suffering from anxiety for years, but mostly suppressing it until now.

Are you doing anything differently to look after your mental health during this period?

I am definitely taking the time to look after myself during this time, practising meditation, reading more, trying to stay active during lockdown (I’ve even taken up running). Our mental health is so vital, and we need to look after it properly.

What are you looking forward to doing once things improve?

I am definitely looking forward to live music and festivals once things are able to open back up again. I miss music a lot.

What new TV, films, music or books have you discovered during lockdown that you’d recommend?

TV: Bobs Burgers, Sneaky Pete, Ratched, Snowpiercer, The Sinner, Drage Race UK, Love is Blind, Lupin, The Queen’s Gambit, Money Heist, Hollywood, The Haunting of Hill House

MUSIC: Duckwrth, Rimon, MXXWLL, Lauren Faith

BOOKS: Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid, Maya Angelou’s full autobiographical series, Goodbye Things – Fumio Sasaki, My Sister the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite, Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams, My Voice – Angie Martinez,

What advice would you give to 16 year old you?

Stop worrying about what other people think, no one cares!

If you had to draw a pie chart for what keeps you mentally well – what would it look like?

20% meditation, 20% emotional support, 30% good sleep, 20% calming activities (i.e. reading, yoga, etc)

How do you feel when you take photos?

It can be really exhilarating, especially when I am particularly passionate about the subject matter.

However there is always a sense of anxiety on shoots as well, probably because I shoot film and can’t see the images straight away so I end up stressing about whether or not the shoot went well.

After I get the film developed and get my scans back, it’s the best feeling. Seeing that the images came out as intended and that there was no need to stress.

Who would be your dream shoot?

This is always changing, but I would really love to shoot Solange. She would just be such a dream to shoot!

Who have been your favourite people to shoot?

I’ve had loads of fun shoots. But some of my favourites have got to be; Jorja Smith (image below), Novelist, Unknown T, IAMDDB, Sasha Keable and Bryson Tiller.

Tell us something not many people know about you?

Not a lot of people know, I’m half Polish and was born in Warsaw. I didn’t move to the UK until I was four.

Follow Vicky on Instagram: @vickygrout

Visit The Mind Map website to find out more about their work. You can also follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

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