Q&A: Patrick James Broadwick

I chatted with artist Patrick James Broadwick about some of photograph collections and his love of Highlandtown.

Talk about your background, where you’re from, etc

I grew up in the Hamilton neighborhood of Baltimore with my parents and three brothers. I was the shy kid in the family with few close friends. I’d say I was the more arts-oriented of my siblings much like my mom. Before college, I’d only attended small private schools. While I enjoyed my childhood and felt loved, I was raised in a very conservative evangelical environment, which I now see was limiting. In the years since graduating college, I’ve done a complete 180° in my beliefs and worldview ending up about as far left as I can. This has opened new worlds of empathy and artistic opportunity I couldn’t imagine previously.

I read you’re a self taught photographer. How did that happen? 

One of the earliest desires I had as a kid was to be a professional photographer when I grew up. This was born of me paging through the many older National Geographic magazines my parents kept in our basement. I was floored at how certain photographers could take seemingly mundane subjects and, through composition and other stylistic choices, create a sublimely interesting image. Of course, I didn’t have that vocabulary at the time to know this is what they were doing. Nonetheless, I was drawn in to certain images and wanted to learn to create something similar someday. In college, I majored in Art History, which is now kind of a joke of a degree the way you hear talked about it in sitcoms. But it was actually very helpful for me in learning about what makes an image striking or interesting to the eye. I think this time cemented a visual vocabulary in me that’s hard to teach oneself but develops over many years of taking in great art.

I graduated from Towson University in 2010. Jump to 2017, and I basically decided that I’m going to let myself try this photography thing out for real. It started with taking photos on my phone during my walks to and from work downtown. I saw parts of the city that people tend to ignore or pass without thought or comment. But these were the visuals that held my eye. I started to take things more seriously, bought a nice mirrorless camera, and began really experimenting and teaching myself. I let my eye for subject, composition, and color take its instinctual lead, but where the self-training came in was during the editing process. That’s where I feel like the magic happens. I see the photo I think it can become in my head, and getting it there when I can has become the part that I’ve had to teach myself. I’m now much more confident that the image I see in my head can become a reality that I can bring to others.

I love your Photo sets “On Being Queer” and “On Mental Illness.” Was it hard taking or even developing them? 

Thanks! Those are some of my favorites because it’s hard to create a multitude of self-portraits that I feel like are unique enough to stand on their own but also feel part of a whole series. “On Mental Illness” was one I started pretty early on as I had a desire to explore the inner world of what it feels like to live with a mental illness. I’ve been diagnosed with chronic depression and social anxiety disorder. It’s something I have trouble describing in words, but I feel wholly capable of describing them with imagery. I wanted to “describe” them that way without shame.          

My “On Being Queer” series is much newer. This past June, I came out to friends and family as bisexual. I did so on Instagram and Facebook with my first “On Being Queer” series photo. I’ve known this about myself for a very long time. I told my wife pretty early on in our marriage, but I’d never told anyone else. Because of how I was raised, being bisexual wasn’t really an option or something I could explore. So I stifled those attractions and desires for years until I was at a place of enough confidence, support, and self-assurance that I could express this to everyone in my life with pride rather than fear and shame. The purpose of the series is really to be as vulnerable as possible in front of the camera (without showing everything!). Coming out was an incredibly vulnerable moment, and I received mostly positive responses from people in my life. I want to celebrate this vulnerability. I suppose this is the right time to share that I’ve actually added that series to my website. I basically added it without promoting it yet to see how I felt about it being up. So yeah, still working on being vulnerable. 🙂

Has it been cool seeing the smut readings grow? 

Yes, absolutely. It seemed like a random idea at the time, but it’s been so much fun to see how Jocelyn (Highlandtown’s Mistress of Smut) has turned it into such a successful staple of the Art Walk. It has a core fan base, but new people seem to show up each time. I’m in awe of how creative, witty, and smutty Jocelyn gets with each of the readings. As she practices at home, I make sure to put on music so the first time I hear it is at the actual event. It’s just too good every time; I don’t want to spoil it for myself.

What is it like being a part of the Highlandtown Arts scene? Highlandtown in general?

It’s great! I love this neighborhood so much. I’ve been thrilled to get to know the gallery owners and other artists in the area. They’re all so supportive of each other. Being featured a few times in group shows at Snake Hill has been a great way to meet these other artist, and get my name out there more. I feel welcomed and even supported by many great people.

In your opinion, how integral are the Arts for a City like Baltimore? 

For me, the Arts are in every sense an invitation to empathy. And every city, neighborhood, group of friends, family, etc. can only be made better, more loving, more unified, and more focused on social justice through greater empathy. It’s a muscle I love to exercise.

How have you been doing with social distancing? 

Ha—I’ve been social distancing since high school! But seriously, someone as introverted as me hasn’t had to adjust too much. But I certainly feel for those who are energized by being around others. My wife is one of those people. We’re super lucky to have each other to spend time with at home. Also, shout-out to our cat, Ginger, and dog, Aki. Even when they’re being bad, it’s great having them as roommates.

Restaurants in Highlandtown will be highlighted this Friday, including Snake Hill. What’s your favorite menu item from Snake Hill? 

Hmmm. That’s tough. I’ll name three.

          Drink: Snake Hill Sour

          Side: Truffle Shuffle

          Sausage: The Greek Goddess

Are you excited about the second Virtual First Friday Art Walk? 

Yep, I can’t wait! I think the first one was a success, and props to those who put it together on such short notice. I think it’s wonderful that we didn’t have to miss our Art Walk because of this damn virus. It shows how important our community and the arts are to all of us.          

Shout-out to Snake Hill, and especially Beth-Ann Wilson, who asked me a while ago if I’d like to do a solo show of my photography. I was thrilled and set to work for the past year on deciding what to include and getting pieces printed for it. I was, of course, bummed that the physical show couldn’t happen, but I was able to create a virtual gallery of all the pieces that I was going to display. The show is called “Documenting Entropy.” You can (virtually) walk around, view the art and its info (title, dimensions, price), and even take a guided tour while listening to me describe my work in a hopefully non-pretentious sounding way! I think it turned out pretty great. All the art in the show is for sale (unless marked as SOLD).

Patrick’s work will be featured on this Friday’s Highlandtown Virtual Art Walk! Facebook Event Info

Follow Patrick: Facebook/ Instagram / Official Website/ Online Gallery