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The story behind an image

Andrea Colognese of The Village Hearth Bakery and Cafe, preparing loaves of bread for the oven.

I thought I’d share the story behind “A Baker and his Oven,” the image I chose in my print giveaway for my fine art print site. The story is interesting in itself, but it’s also helpful in understanding how photographers—at least this photographer—approaches photography and is helpful to anyone looking at photography and thinking about how to look at a photograph.

When I arrived at the bakery at 5 AM Andrea was coaxing a fire into life and getting proofed loaves ready to bake. The smell of the woodsmoke hit me well before I opened the door, and my stomach growled in anticipation of the soon-to-be-baked yeasty loaves.

Andrea and his pastry-chef wife Dori own the Village Hearth, an artisan bakery and café in Jamestown, Rhode Island. Their artisanship extends well beyond the home-milled grains in the baked goods; Andrea built that beautiful, quirky oven himself using plans from “The Breadbuilders,” an oven-masons’ handbook. Unlike most commercial ovens, this one is fired from within the oven itself, not from a separate firebox below it.

Though I’ve never built an oven I have built furniture, kitchen cabinets, and even a kayak, so I appreciated what went into creating the oven’s decorative brickwork, its funky keystone, and its solid posts and lintel. I liked the way the deliberately stacked proofing baskets on the hearth and the busy details of the bakery equipment in the background framed Andrea with his intense gaze, moving balletically as he expertly slid the peel under the loaves in the massive oven.

If you’re going through Jamestown Rhode Island (it’s on the way to Newport from most of the U.S.) stop by for some bread or pastries. You won’t be disappointed.