Creative Spotlight: Robert Broad, Photographer
Posted in Editorial
Creative Spotlight: Robert Broad, Photographer
Written by Vicky Shepherd
Originally from Outwood, Wakefield born Robert Broad has spent a lot of his photography career documenting the District and its urban changes, recently sharing his visual findings with the City he loves.
Robert’s ‘My North’ collection was exhibited at The Art House earlier this year. The collection shows a far cry from the built up, social hub we know now; this work focuses on the often overlooked details of Wakefield and how it evolved from a thriving mining district to the diverse hub of creativity we know today.
Son of a Lofthouse collier himself, Robert grew up through the closure of the mining industry in Wakefield. However it wasn’t until 1984, the year before the Colliery’s closure, that Broad got his first camera. Throughout his early photography years Robert used his camera for fun, photographing friends and family around Outwood. It wasn’t until he got his own house in the 90s that he started to notice how much the city had changed.
We caught up with Robert to ask about his journey as a professional Photographer and what has inspired him throughout! Read how he came to have his first ever solo exhibition at The Art House!
When did you realise you had a passion for photography?
“I got my first camera in December 1984 from my mum’s Grattan Catalogue, it was an Olympus om20! Like most people I photographed family and friends and the village where I lived, always with colour film.
It wasn’t until the late 80s I shot my first roll of black and white film. It was at Bolton Abbey on a day out, a friend of mine developed my film in his loft. I still remember going up there and seeing where the magic was done.
This opened up a whole new world to me, the idea of taking pictures and having them in your hand the same day was such a great thing to me.
In the early 90s I moved away from my parents and had my own house with a cellar, this was where I had my first darkroom and this is where I got my bug for photography and I guess where my passion started.”.
Through your photography journey, what has been the most helpful advice given to you?
“Some of the best advice I have been given didn’t come until much later and it was to study other photographers’ work, which I now do a lot of.
I have become a collector/ hoarder of photography books, films and magazines. I am constantly being inspired by work and people around me, trying to find my own direction.”
What was your proudest creative moment?
“In the early 90s I was involved with WAVES Magazine, a fan club publication for the Scottish Singer/ Songwriter Mike Scott, the Waterboys frontman. I was asked to take photographs on a couple of dates of his solo tour; these were published in the magazine. Being able to show my parents my pictures in a magazine, we were all quite chuffed.
A close second was my ‘My North’ exhibition at The Art house in March this year of course! The idea for the exhibition came about in October/ November of 2021 when I approached Emily Ryalls, the head of Photography at The Art House, with a box of my prints and the possibility of doing something with them.
I had so many, not just Wakefield but Newcastle, Halifax, Leeds, York and Huddersfield, I wasn’t sure where to start with them.
From the start these photographs were my personal work of home, parents, family and pets not really for public consumption, just for me. I like to go walking and being outdoors a lot, so I always took my camera wherever I went, and still do. So stood in the Tiled Room in The Art House with everything framed up, sharing these pictures to the community of Wakefield and the wider audience was such a great experience and I was so proud of what I had achieved with the great team at The Art House.
And being the first Photographer to have my work exhibited I felt very humbled.”
We understand your collection ‘My North” was inspired by the changes seen throughout the Wakefield District
in the 1990s, what drew you to want to base your work around your home city?
“‘My North’ originated from a photo essay I had to do as part of a CIty and Guilds Photography course I completed in 1994. I based it on Outwood which is where I am from, it involves photographing various aspects of village life, I also incorporated a lot of history on the area.
I started taking pictures of Wakefield as it was on my doorstep; recording its changes wasn’t for nostalgic reasons, at the time I thought it would be good to document the changes as I didn’t know anyone else who was doing it.
I had read in the local newspaper about the redevelopment of Wakefield Westgate. I spent about a month going down there recording the different stages of its demise; it was the same for the bus station and the Marsh Way Project. This became a project that grew from there, I eventually started to photograph the people living in the city.”
In addition to that, what made you decide on this collection now, after all these years?
“It was during Covid and lockdown, I was furloughed and had a lot of free time on my hands, spending some of it going through my negatives and printing work up.
This also gave me time to reflect on the work I had taken and considered letting them go. Having a run in with Emily at The Art House helped me see the potential, she also encouraged me and this was the direction I took with ‘My North’.”
Do you have a new inspiration for future work / any exciting projects in the pipeline?
“I have several avenues I’m exploring at the moment, taking inspiration from film shorts, music lyrics and poetry, as well as new fellow artists and photographers I have met through my exhibition and my photography book collection; which is a constant inspiration.
Ideas are not always visual, and I like the idea of working with more colour. I will spend a few months trying some ideas to see if they have potential for a project.”
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
“There are quite a few things I could say to my younger self, at the moment though I would say; don’t say no when you can say yes… as you never know where the yes can take you.”
What would be your perfect day out in Wakefield?
“Cameras and Photography aside, I would start by heading out to Sandal Castle to enjoy the views, a steady walk back to The Hepworth to admire some of the current exhibitions. Maybe visit Thornes Park or partake in a coffee at Marmalade on the Square, in the evening I would go with one of the many restaurants in the centre, going with one I know I would choose ‘Fino’, a nice little Italian on Northgate.”
Is there another Wakefield based Creative’s work you are loving at the moment?
“So many to choose from! One artist who springs to mind, who I met in person at the recent Open Studio Day at The Art House, was Helen Riddle, mixed media artist in residence. I really like the way she created some great ideas using various materials and explained the ideas and concepts, making the pieces work.”
Robert is a great part of the Creative Community in The Wakefield District, we will surely be seeing more from him in the future! In the meantime, why not try out some black and white photography of your own using The Art House’s very own Dark Room!