Spirit Valley Bread Share



Kerry Donars is a talented craftsman. You can see it in the furniture he makes. You can see it in the house he built on the hill overlooking downtown Duluth. It’s a testament to thoughtful and creative design. When I found out that Kerry was also the man behind an up and coming baking business, I saw a unique opportunity for a photo shoot. In fact, several photo shoots.

For years, I have been drawn to those people who choose to make things for themselves. Bicycle frame builders. Timber frame builders. Brewers. Seamsters. It does not matter  what the craft is. It is the fact that someone has taken it upon themselves to actually make it from scratch instead of buying in off the shelf. I love the entrepreneurial guts these people demonstrate. Whenever I see it, I am instantly drawn to the actual physical process of the creation. Kerry’s bread share business was no different. It turns out that Kerry and I have referenced some of the same baking principles and techniques.  I was inherently curious to see how a real baker could bring not just one loaf of bread to life, but many loaves.

Photographically, this assignment posed a couple of significant challenges. The first was light. Or the lack thereof. Kerry’s bakery is in a dark, cold basement below his woodworking shop. Kerry has controlled the baking and fermenting temperatures with portable heaters placed under the prep tables. The light consisted of a few fluorescent bulbs placed over the main table and oven. The second problem was shooting on baker’s hours. Kerry does much of his work early in the morning and right before bed.



The first couple of shoots I did not use any supplemental lighting. I was surprised that I could actually get away with using the existing sources. But the last couple of shoots, I brought in a simple one strobe and umbrella set up. In fact, it was the day that I received the lighting kit in the mail. No time like the present to learn how to use your gear! It proved to be very helpful (duh!…) and actually fun! Using the strobe allowed me to isolate the subject (Kerry, or his hands, or the dough) better than not using one. I have since fallen in love with using a simple one strobe set up. Though not proficient yet, I have at least lost my fear of monkeying around with them.

The shoot ended up taking many more weeks than expected simply because our schedules were so different. But by the end of Winter break, I felt like I got the shots that I wanted. This led to the next decision. How to show the photos in a way that means something. Initially, I was (and still am) very taken by the book, Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson (photos by Erin Wolfinger). The lay out of photos depicting the baking process in whole is beautifully done. My current website and weblog site are not quite up to that lay out capacity though. So, for the time being, I will set them up the best that I can. Because of the shear number of photos, it makes sense to have smaller images and more of them per page. It is another example, too, where it is the collection of photos as a whole that helps tell the story. I do feel like I got a couple of stand-alones…but most should be grouped together.

In the end, I confirmed the idea that I really like documentary style photographic work. I like the challenge of shooting in a new location(s). I loved the idea of trying to tell a story. And it was great getting to know a really nice guy with an amazing skill set. Thanks to Kerry Donars for letting me practice my craft while photographing his.

Kerry's Bread

Kerry’s Bread









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