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by Corey Gray
Patrick Donovan is one of the best photographers I’ve had the pleasure of matching with on Tinder. An immediately aesthetically striking fellow a strong jaw and a romantic tumble of rich brown hair with a wild adoration for his pet Chihuahua. Hard not to be drawn in for a closer look at this New York City based artist radiating so much life. One look at his photographic work and you’ll see the same reflected. Deftly manipulated lighting to create the perfect tone of intimacy with the young men whom he uses as the main subjects for most of his work. There’s such an effortless emotion to this Fashion Institute of Technology student’s work. He has a drive and passion that I don’t see too often with younger artists. He’s someone to watch out for, and luckily I was able to ask him a few questions about himself as an artist.
I’m always interested in hearing what inspires people’s art because often, younger artists have no idea what, if anything, inspires their work, or what they’re trying to do or say with their art. So, what’s your point of view, Patrick, what inspires your work?
“My art has always been the people in my photographs. I've always felt this responsibility to document and remember the people that decide to donate memories to me, and it's using my gift to remember them in this photographic light. My work over the past couple years has been heavily inspired by my relationships, the men I've slept with and my friends. It's this ongoing documentation and survey of the people I meet. I have this one series I'm working on that I've lovingly dubbed "Sad Boys Club". It started as an homage to David Armstrong after he died recently and has continued on into a life of its own as a portrait series that focuses on remembering the boys of New York in a post millennium era.”
Stephen King wrote in a preface to one of his short stories about a proverb his mother used to say: “Milk always takes the flavor of what it sits next to in the icebox.” King expands on this adage “I don’t know if that’s true about milk, but it’s certainly true when it comes to stylistic development of young writers. When I was a young man, I wrote like H. P. Lovecraft when I was reading Lovecraft[…]” Do you feel that this is also applicable to photographic style, and specifically your own?
“Oh for sure! When I first started really coming into my own, I wanted to be the next Mapplethorpe, but lately I just want to be me. I'm aware of my influences (i.e. Robert Mapplethorpe, David Armstrong, Mark Morrisroe, Larry Clark) but I've used them as reference and then allowed myself to grow and evolve from that. They're all incredible artists and I learned so much, but I've got my own voice and my own stories to tell, and the boys in my work deserve to have an original plot line. The greats before me have made this possible and I'm just excited to live in a world where I can look up to all of them.”
Your work is very cohesive thanks to pervasive use of young men as the main subject. Do you see yourself sticking to the same subject matter for the foreseeable future?
“The majority of my projects lately are long term things. Thanks to the Internet, I've been able to reach out to so many boys and let Sad Boys Club really grow into this pseudo cult online. I can't say for certain that I won't have a giant artistic revolution in the future, but for now my work is about the boys. We learn from each other and it's been amazing to create this body of work and form a community. So, yeah. For now.”
Finally, what advice would you give to an artist whose art lacks focus and point of view?
“Stop trying to impress someone with your work. Do what makes your heart beat faster. Photographs and sex are almost synonymous to me, you know? It's gotta get the blood pumpin’, and it's got to matter. Piss some people off with what you make. I had a professor once tell me that if you're making art that your parents like, stop making that. I get censored daily on Instagram and I get constant messages from concerned viewers about the "vulgarities" in my work. Let them fuel you until you've built and constructed something you really care about. Write about what makes you feel and then go photograph that.”
You can check out more of Patrick’s work on his Instagram @patrickdonovanstudios!