Bobby Baker – The Photographer’s Interview
Award-winning photographer, Bobby Baker, has a body of excellent work. Much of his passion for photography is shaped by the beautiful Cape Cod coastal area. Bobby’s compositions are marvelous; he clearly has a fantastic knowledge of light, form, and shape. His work is beautifully processed, with exquisite contrast, bringing out the finest details and texture in New England’s sand dunes, countryside, and water.
In his portfolio, Bobby also has some stellar images of my personal favourite, ‘Americana’. Tiny churches, bold wall art and rusted cars and trucks, are superbly rendered by Bobby, as perfect moments in time.
Bobby has had numerous exhibitions and has had his work featured in many publications.
You can view Bobby’s photography on his website:
Bobby is also on Instagram
Please talk a bit about where you are from and where you live now…
I was born and raised in the small Western Pennsylvania town of Windber. My parents always encouraged my pursuit of the arts, and I studied a variety of musical instruments. Later, as a young adult, I spent a great deal of time as a professional musician traveling the United States, the Caribbean, etc. It was having the opportunity to see the world by way of music that would open my eyes to what I really wanted to do – create visual art. After more than 13 years of touring as a professional musician and a 25-year career as a sales and marketing executive, my ongoing creation of art inspired by Cape Cod vistas strongly suggested to my wife Dena, and me, that we relocate to the Cape. We bought a charming antique house and barn in the village of Cataumet and have since converted the barn into the Bobby Baker Gallery showing my work and that of other talented Cape artists.
Rock Harbor Reflections
How did you discover your passion for photography?
As mentioned earlier, I believe that my travels initially stirred my passion for creating art with a camera. When you see things that excite your mind, I think its only natural to want to share what you feel with others. From my early days when my parents took me to Florida on our annual vacation, I developed a connection with the ocean, and pretty much all things coastal. The surf, sand, and sun, feeling the sea breeze, and smelling the wonderful salty air…it’s magic! A published review of my artwork stated that my “monochrome images soar with crescendos that almost let you hear the surf and be swept along with it.” I work to create art that will allow the viewer to experience just that kind of sensation. How better to make something you love last forever than to create art that takes you to that special moment every time you view it.
What kind of photographic education have you had?
I began to seriously learn photography by studying with, and acting as an assistant to, a Palm Beach, Florida event photographer in the late 1970’s. It was then that I bought my first real camera, an Olympus OM‐1n. I still have that complete kit to this day, and just in the past year had it completely refurbished. I have been meaning to relive some of my early B&W film days with it, and as soon a time allows, I will. From that point on, I have been pretty much self‐taught. It wasn’t until much later that I was fortunate enough to meet an exceptional fine art photographer best known for her work with flowers, Dr. Judith Monteferrante. Judith was the exact kind of mentor a growing artist needs. Accomplished with her art and teachings, she was spot‐on and firm in her guidance and evaluation of my work. There was never any holding back in her critiques, or in her support of me going forward with my work. That was an important period for my development as an artist.
What camera do you use and what are your favourite lenses and why?
When I find something that works, I stick with it until I find a reason not to. For the longest time now I have used Nikon gear, the D800 is still my main go‐to body. The majority of my work is created with either my Nikkor 24‐70mm f/2.8 or Nikkor 70‐200mm f/2.8 for their sharpness, and the versatility those two lenses provide me.
Room With A View
What is it about Cape Cod that inspires you to shoot?
We have beautiful sunsets, sunrises, the vibrant colors of greener than green grass and Cape flowers set against gray cedar shake sided houses; a warm salty summer breeze as classic convertibles cruise scenic roads and yesterday becomes today; weathered boardwalks lead through sculpted dunes to pristine beaches and the welcoming waves of Nantucket Sound, the serenity of Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay… and then there’s the amazing Cape Cod light to create with, the light that artists have long journeyed to the Cape for. There is all of that and just as important to my creativity is the Cape Cod “state of mind.” For years I have felt a mental adjustment every time I drove over the bridge onto the Cape. Upon doing so, I felt better and I smiled, as I was on Cape Cod – you left your troubles on the other side of that bridge. And now that I live here, I feel even better – and yes, I dread having to go back over the bridge up north – for anything! The light, the vistas, the state of mind, one’s imagination can explode and create special art here on the Cape.
What elements are important to you when you are outdoors in order for you to get that perfect shot?
Subject and light, as always – weather, time of day, and mood. Yes, one’s surrounding can have, or inspire, a “mood” for sure. It’s fun to work within that “mood” and create a piece that conveys that feeling. Since most of my work is coastal, and I am often on or near beaches, I much prefer locations free of tourists and such distractions.
Begginning to End
Please talk through how you process one of your images (Programs/Methods)…
My goal is to get it right in the camera and have to do as little editing beyond normal processing as possible. I download my image files into Lightroom and begin the review process, eliminating shots and honing in on images that will most likely end up as finished pieces. Touchup and exposure tweaks are done either in Lightroom or Photoshop. I convert files to black and white in Silver Efex Pro. Usually, the most serious edit to an image file that I may perform would be cropping. After finishing the tweaks or edits to the file, I spend a great deal of time in my studio looking at it on a large monitor, and often, a crop gives me just the right look and feel that I want – hence the unconventional sizes of some of my prints.
Which photographers do you admire and why?
I have long admired the work of Joel Meyerowitz. The images he creates tell so much, and his Cape Light collection is epic. Walker Evans’ depictions of the effects of the Great Depression era and the living conditions of Alabama sharecropper families really speak. And obviously, if you love to create in black and white as I do, you have spent time studying works of Ansel Adams. I admire the landscape work of Clyde Butcher and I very much like Michael Kenna’s work, especially his 2018 South Korea work with pieces like Pine Tree, Study 5 and Yedang Reservoir Tree, his China studies of Seaweed Farms, and work from Japan, Field of Snow, Lone Tree, etc. Why? Look at their work ‐ the contrast, the shadows, the light, the subject and the composition – and their work speaks! Whether a perfect Cape Cod beach day, the pain and struggle of poverty, an awe-inspiring landscape, or the mystique of nature’s designs from foreign lands, these artists have created work that speaks to the viewer – you feel it.
South Cape Beach
You clearly have had many successes with marketing your work and get awards, what steps did you take to get published with awards and what advice would you give to photographers wanting to get there work in publications?
I have a marketing background and have often done presentations to artists regarding marketing their work and their story. It’s essential to use all the marketing tools we have at hand, such as social media, to get as many eyes on one’s art as possible. As an artist, you need to be serious about your marketing plan and set aside time to manage it on a regular basis, or if it fits your budget, hire someone to manage it for you. Social media, email marketing, blogs, a good website, and networking are all vital ingredients to promote ones work and story. You need to be sure your art is “in the mix” to be seen by potential clients whether they are collectors, gallery owners, or magazine publishers. The most significant “successes” I have had occurred because my work was “out there” to be seen, and it did get seen. As far as advice, in addition to having your marketing plan in order, as always you need a great “product” to promote. One needs to be sure the art they are presenting is interesting and speaks to clients. A wonderful, internationally recognized, artist ‐ Steve Lyons ‐ who shows my work in his gallery on Cape Cod, recently posted an image on Instagram of one of his paintings that sold to a client visiting his gallery for the first time. The client bought the piece because as Steve wrote, “It literally spoke to her.” That’s what I’m talking about – the connection!
What would you say is your greatest achievement in your photographic career?
I would like to think that I have yet to accomplish my “greatest achievement.” One’s first art sale, having Joel Meyerowitz select your work for an exhibit, having a gallery represent your work, having your own gallery, winning awards for one’s creations, doing interviews with well‐respected art publications ‐ I think are all great achievements that I am proud of. However, I think the best is yet to come. Let’s talk again in a few years!
Which of your images is your favourite and why?
Choosing one of my images from the thousands I have created as a “favorite” is difficult. However, two of my black and white pieces, Rock Harbor Reflections and Follow Me, do stand out in my mind as work that greatly helped to more or less “put me on the map”, or at the very least got people to seriously look at my work. Follow Me grabbed the eye with the angles of a wooden beach stairway guiding the viewer to the surfs edge by way of a dark silhouette, mystery woman, about to step into the unknown. Rock Harbor Reflections has garnered much attention from collectors and galleries and is in several private collections. The great Joel Meyerowitz selected Rock Harbor Reflections for an exhibit that he juried which focused on the use of light in photography. It meant a great deal to me to have him select my work.
What plans/projects do you have for the future?
My gallery takes up much of my time, and growing its presence on the Cape is important and a big part of future plans. This season we have been enjoying great success with pastel painter Rachel Avenia’s art as well as my own work in the gallery. Planned projects include new black and white work that I have visualized to be created on a favorite stretch of beach on Nantucket Sound. I will also be showing additional new coastal inspired art throughout the year. In addition to my gallery on the Cape in Cataumet and the Steve Lyons Gallery in Chatham, Cape Cod, MA, my work may also be seen at the Copley Society of Art in Boston.