Sameer Patel is a photographer, film maker and friend of Merc , whose eye for an image or a scene; coupled with a love of music and Subculture, has seen his career take him across the world.
Since graduating from the London Film School his works have been featured everywhere, from his native city, London to places as far afield as Palm Springs. His works have been recognised by the larger players too. His works have been licensed by Sky Arts and the Sundance Channel.
A man of many talents, his photographic skills have seen him work not only with Merc , but also following the Punk and Ska scene in Mexico, Cuban Hip Hop and the “Gnawa” music scene in Morocco !
Charismatic, cheerful and talented, Merc were delighted to have a socially distanced catch up with the man behind the lens. It has given us an opportunity to showcase his diverse range of works.
I was actually quite late in picking up a camera. After university I went backpacking around South America and I found this town in Paraguay where electronics were cheap. I bought a Canon photographic film camera (just before digital cameras started) and I realised I loved taking photos.
YOUR LIFE BEHIND A LENS COMBINES BOTH FILM AMD PHOTOGRAPHY, WHAT WAS YOUR INTIAL AREA OF INTEREST ?
Music scenes around the world
WHAT SUBCULTURE DID YOU FIRST START TO CAPTURE ? ?
I was working as an accountant in the city and really did not enjoy the job so I left and went to Cuba for a while and began taking photos of the early Hip Hop scene out there.
WHEN DID YOU REALISE YOU HAD AN EYE AND A TALENT FOR THIS ?
Around this time people began to tell me they liked the photos i was taking, but it took me another couple of years to think about taking it professionally.
HOW WAS YOUR TIME AT LONDON FILM SCHOOL AND WHAT DID IT TEACH YOU MOST ABOUT USING YOUR NATURAL TALENT ?
Filmmaking unlike photography is very collaborative. The LFS puts you in situations where, talent is not enough, you really need to collaborate to make a film as well as understand the myriad jobs that everyone has from a cinematographer to a sound designer.
TELL US ABOUT THE WORK YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF ?
I have a short film called "On The Bridge" that I am proud of and was funded by Film London.
In terms of music videos "Small Town Boy" by Heavyball that was nominated for a British Animation Award (and dressed by Merc).
Documentary - "Black Star" that was watched more than 1 million times on FB live - its a story about an African American man who wants to voluntarily repatriate to Ghana.
DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT WAY OF PREPARING FOR A FILM OR A PHOTOGRAPHIC SHOOT ?
If I’m working in a team when making a film, then yes, as I really have to communicate a vision in advance. Many times when I film, I am actually a one man band self-shooting so it is less collaborative but I still have to think about sound, editing and other things in advance which means I have to be more prepared.
YOU’VE DONE SOME AMAZING MUSIC VIDEOS IN PLACES SUCH AS ETHIOPIA , WHAT LED TO THIS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER ?
I love travelling and learn a lot of experiencing other cultures. I believe that all countries have both positive and negative sides, but we rarely see the positive sides of many countries in our media. If I can travel and film these areas in a more positive light then that is a bonus.
WHATS BEEN THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE WORLD YOUVE WORKED IN ?
That’s a difficult one. Ethiopia has a special place in my heart as the land and people are amazing, however I would also say that there is a something special about Mexico.
YOUVE CAPTURED IMAGES IN SOME PRETTY INTENSE PLACES, HAVE YOU EVER FELT THREATENED OR UNSAFE ?
No, however, I always try and find a 'fixer' i.e someone who knows the locals and has trust in the area. This can be a professional film person or more likely just a local taxi driver that I became fiends with.
SOME OF YOUR IMAGES OF THE PUNK AND SKA SCENE IN MEXICO ARE TRUELY STUNNING ! WHERE DOES YOUR INTEREST IN THE SUBCULTURE COME FROM?
I spent a lot of years DJing and being interested in Hop Hop and House music culture, and these subcultures were influential in my younger years. Later on I learned too appreciate all types of subcultures, as I saw that they all bring a feeling of togetherness and meaning. Punk music was not something that I knew much about, but I can relate to the passion and love that Mexicans have for that genre from my own experiences.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE STYLE OR SUBCULTURE ?
I have always been fascinated by the late 70’s New York, where Hip Hop, Disco and punk crossed over in the downtown scene, and also rave and the 2nd Summer of love in 1988 when millions of Brits danced in fields. I was too young for both scenes but what I love about them was that they were both socially revolutionary.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK WITH MERC CLOTHING ?
What I like about Merc is that they understand the value of up and coming musicians and always support them. Sometimes when I work with Merc I am working with musicians and I love that and even when I work on purely fashion shoots there is always this rebellious music attitude that comes with it.
WHAT DOES MERC MEAN TO YOU ?
London, British, Music, Style.
ON A PHOTOSHOOT DO YOU HAVE A PLAYLIST AND IF SO WHAT DETERMINES WHAT GOES ON IT ?
We are always too busy shooting around the streets of London to have a playlist, but if I was to have a track that would begin the shoot it would be Barrington Levy's ‘Here I Come’.
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO WORK DURING LOCKDOWN ?
Yes, we have to work around the situation. For example I just finished directing and editing a music video that was filmed in Sydney, Australia. The way we did was that the cinematographer in Sydney and myself planned all the shots in advance and then I was up all night on Whatsapp to see it as it progressed. Then they sent me all the footage (300Gb) and I edited it.
WHATS NEXT FOR SAMEER PATEL ?
I’m making a documentary about an art and music scene in Dubai just after 9/11when all these young hungry and talented kids from the region came to work as they were denied visas in the west. They created what could have been a revolutionary middle eastern creative movement but it came crashing down at the end of the decade.
The project has been financed using the following kick starter campaign – the response has been overwhelming – for more details click the link https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shehab/dxb-kids
Words by Richie Kyle
Photos by Sameer Patel