Grout then went on to live in Ghana, West Africa, in 2002, with an extended family of cocoa farmers to create his latest book, "Harvest of Hope," a portrait of those who toil to bring us chocolate.

Evolving creative process

Grout, an avid gardener, is constantly searching for new ways to tell a story. Over the past four decades he has explored drawing, blacksmithing, woodworking, papermaking and new photographic processes.

In a May 21, 1995, article in the Baltimore Sun, he credited his father, Gerald C. Grout, for his interest in art and photography.

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"He's the one who really got me into photography. He was a physician and a fine photographer. He had his own darkroom, and I used to watch him," Grout told Sun writer, Ellie Baublitz.

At the time, the article in 1995 described Grout's show at the Carroll County Arts Center, also a retrospective, "Jubilee: A Photographic Retrospective."

"Like his father, Mr. Grout has a studio and darkroom in his Westminster home, where he develops prints, standard photos as well as what he calls 'photoglyphs' and an even newer image using handmade paper," wrote Baublitz in 1995.

The photoglyphs are a relatively new method of developing prints that Mr. Grout discovered while experimenting with chemicals," Baublitz wrote.

Former Carroll County Commissioner and fellow Vietnam veteran, Dean Minnich, called Grout a, "Good picture shooter and a colleague in journalism. … (We worked together) starting in the Navy and then at the Hanover Evening Sun. I have three or four walls covered with his work in my home."

Sherri Hosfeld Joseph, owner of Birdie's and an artist and photographer herself, said, "Phil Grout is one of the greatest photojournalists of his generation. We are truly blessed as a community that he has chosen our stories to document. His work will leave you awe struck."

After his work in Africa, Phil returned to his first love, photojournalism, and newspapers in 2006, freelancing for The Carroll Eagle, The Catonsville Times, the Howard County Times, the Towson Times and other Patuxent Publishing newspapers. His photo illustrations regularly appear in Carroll Magazine as well.

Grout's photography and reporting have been awarded by the Associated Press, Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association as well as various arts organizations.

"Child of the Universe," a collection of 40 black and white images opens Friday, May 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at Off Track Art, an artists' collective and gallery in the historic Liberty Building at 11 Liberty St. — next to the railroad tracks off the Sentinel parking lot at the corner of West Main St. and Liberty Street (Route 27) in historic downtown Westminster. The exhibition runs through June.

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