SEED Monograph

A conversation series detailing the lives of emerging contemporary photographers.

Who are you, what's your motto? I'm Dorrell Merritt; I am a Fine Art Photographer and a Writer, of some description. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have a motto, but “Do what you can, while you can” does pop into my head quite a lot as I get older. I can be a real workaholic, and know first hand how inspiration can ebb and flow dramatically, so I like to work as much as I can, while I have the drive.

Have you studied photography? What are your thoughts? Yes, I studied photography at both A-level and degree level, at Coventry University. I find the conversation of university experience a tricky one at times. In hindsight I wish I had the knowledge of wider university/university application options that may have been more suited to my personal practice. I think at very least, university was a great time for me to shoot as much as possible independently and really develop my personal voice and style as an artist.

What's your favourite style of photography? Favourite is probably not the right word, but tableaux photography has always spoken to me and is largely what my own work is comprised of. Jeff Wall is my primary inspiration, taking the genre way beyond just recreating paintings into something beautifully uncanny. The complete control within a scene from the photographer, opens up a whole new world for experimentation and expression, which I think is sometimes overlooked in our current generation of photographers. I'm also inspired by investigative or intimate documentary and portraiture, as well as those who merge genres, or experiment beyond those before them.

Can you tell us what SEED Monograph is? So SEED Monograph is a conversation series that I started early 2016. I had become really disillusioned with creating written work for other people and found it frustrating discovering brilliant photographers, wanting to then interview them and then having to go around pitching this idea, to, at best, get it published without being paid. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should pay their dues and work unpaid at some point, but by that time I’d been writing for around five years and it gets tiring working for others. My style of interviewing can be time and energy consuming to plan, conduct and edit. So, I began my own conversation series, with the main focuses being: great photographers, interviews conducted in real-time and conversations that attempted to break down the wall that is often between interviewer and interviewee, sharing the views of the artist as a person as well as a artist.

What were your initial aims and inspirations for the platform? My initial aim was to have fun with the project. I find a lot of interview series’ are either too serious and academic, or just scratch the surface due to generic questions, so having fun but actually gaining and sharing something unique from each artist was really important. 

In regards to inspirations, my main man is Hans Ulrich Obrist. He has inspired me since my days of university and his skill in conducting conversations is unmatched. I re-read his conversations from time to time, and always use his flow and breadth as references for my own work.

How long has the platform existed? SEED Monograph celebrated its first birthday at the beginning of April, so it's very young in the grand scheme of things.

What is SEED Editions? How will this accompany SEED Monograph? SEED Editions is a publishing project I am working on, which I hope will help take SEED Monograph into a physical form. I can’t lie, I am extremely anxious but also really excited about working on it. I have a real penchant for graphic design and as I’m now handling all of the design work and creative direction, it will be a great chance to implement my visual inspirations from these fields. Im also hoping to use S.E. as a platform for output of my personal work across images and text, across posters, monographs and other editions; possibly that of other artists and writers too in the future. Lets see what happens.

What do you look for in a photographer when creating new interviews? It’s hard to say for certain… overlooked photographers, who produce well presented, solid and consistent work are always appealing to me. I try my best not to interview artists who have already been interviewed too many times before and if they have, I try to bring something unique out of them through our conversation. I’m a real sucker for anything involving artistic orchestration, bodies/nudity, or the application of scientific or social theory, when done in an interesting way. Without sounding like a purist, as a user of film, I’m always on the lookout for other photographers who utilise traditional methods (without falling into the trap of overtly romanticising the medium). I also look for people who I think will be engaging, although this can be tricky to estimate!

What do you hope to gain or exploit from conducting interviews? I guess I hope to gain and share the real essence of the artist; a real conversation with mistakes, pauses, warts and all, in which they can let down their guard and speak about anything and everything.

How can people get involved? SEED Monograph isn’t a submission based project, so everyone interviewed were all found through research. Although this might restrict the project on one hand, it makes sure that each person has been carefully chosen for the series for a specific reason and in a way, makes the whole machine much more efficient. 

Give one tip to new photography graduates. I'm not sure that I'm the right person to give advice, but two come to mind (sorry). I would firstly probably say not to underestimate the power of self-sufficiency, especially within the arts and even more so, in photography. Even if it's in a really small way, having some element of independence means that you ultimately will have more control over your output and artistic identity. Why submit, when you can self publish? Why look for a webdesigner, when you can learn a bit of code? Things like that.

As silly as it may sound, another tip would be to take a break from social media every now and then to. As helpful as it can be, it's easy to forget that it's just a theatre of double-taps and clicks. You'll probably thank yourself in a few years for switching it off for a few weeks and creating work without the worry of kudos.

What does the future hold for SEED? Well the online collection of eight conversations is now complete, so my focus and energy is all going into making the project a physical one. I have conducted two brand new conversations for the first print incarnation, which is exciting. I will slowly start to reveal more information about it all, when the time is right. Rushed projects in my experience tend to fail, so I’m in no hurry.