An Interview With Taylor Dorrell

Taylor Dorrell is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York, whose photographic practice predominantly focuses on different aspects of American life. Taylor grew up in the rural south and moved to Ohio at 16 where he finished high school. In 2017 Taylor earned his BFA in Photography from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and made the move to New York City.

For the series Swing State, Taylor Dorrell photographs the democratic process in the state of Ohio, photographing protests, rallies, marches, and the political climate in Ohio leading up to, during, and after the 2016 elections.

Hey Taylor. Will you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a Brooklyn based photographer who also enjoys making video work, writing, reading, learning, and visiting Ohio.

Your work as a whole is very clinical and well looks to be well thought through. Have you come from an artistic background?

I’ve always pursued artistic endeavors. When I was younger I wanted to be a painter, then a musician, and finally a photographer. I’ve started to explore other interests, but I tend to funnel that into my photo work.

We decided to feature your project, Swing State. How did this project come about? Was politics something you were interested in before starting this project?

The project was more of an afterthought. I was attending all of these political events and protests, sometimes making images, it wasn’t until election day that I decided to put all of the images together. For me, the project represents an exploration of the democratic process in the US, as I was doing just that. It was the first presidential election I was old enough to vote in and the first I was genuinely invested in.

Did you feel you wanted to get a certain point across with the way approached the project from the start?

Not at all. If anything I wanted to the images to stay as ambiguous as possible, but everyone interprets them in their own way and I think my biases are implicitly communicated.

The majority of series revolving around politics always focus towards protests and violence. Your project makes me feel peaceful and intense at the same time. Why do you think this is?

I was paying attention to how these events were being portrayed photographically and felt that they weren’t reflective of the environments. Although there is tension and in some cases, conflict, a majority of the time there is awkward walking, standing, waiting, and conversing. All of it can sometimes feel intense, but the reality is a lot of silent in-between moments. I remember the parking lots of rallies and the walk from the parking lot to the event more than any brief conflicts that unfolded at the events. Obviously these moments aren’t newsworthy and will likely be forgotten historically, but they’re aesthetically pleasing and are the mundane reality.

I see that your work isn’t always photojournalistic based projects. Do you think working on previous documentary projects made you think more about a narrative and how you wanted this project to look?

I definitely wanted to only photograph certain things that I’d photograph regardless of the political connotation. I didn’t want to change my process and thought that this might be a unique way of seeing these events.

How did you approach the people photographed within the series? Did you find most people were proud of their political views and therefore wanted to have their photo taken?

Everyone was different, but there were Trump supporters who definitely did not want their photo taken. I had no issues photographing people on the left. Since I look a certain way and tend to have friends that I’m with, I don’t give off a conservative friendly vibe that anti-media Trump supporters are going to trust. But I did have a long conversation with a Trump supporter who I took a portrait of and managed to get some images of Trump supporters without permission. The process was different for everyone, but most tend to be skeptical.

Would you say this is one of the most important projects you’ve worked on?

Not necessarily the most important to me, because these events were all over photographed and I didn’t feel an urgency to portray the events in an exaggerated fashion. I think most people who look at my projects might see it as the most important, because it’s the easiest topic to digest. It’s easy to photograph politics. I wanted to try to go deeper, but the reality is that images oversimplify our complex reality and make it easy for viewers to attach themselves to politically charged images. The most important project to me won’t consist of pictures of guns and political candidates. Even though I do enjoy making images about them and see these kinds of images as essential, as they are documenting our current state, they are not personally my highest form of inspiration.

Are you working on anything right now?

I’m currently working on two bodies of work, but I can’t say anything about either right now.