The Fake Baker.

©2012 Kirk Tuck

We were scheduled to photograph a baker for a shoot for Schlotzsky's Sandwich shops because they'd just added an assortment of breads to their original sour dough bread and they were going to use their "artisanal breads" as a marketing differentiator.  The image was to impart an "old world craftsman" look so the brief started by specifying black and white.  I immediately thought of the insightful yet straightforward work of August Sander, the German Photographer who documented various craftspeople in an amazing project that spanned decades.

The Pastry Chef ©August Sander.  

The photo shoot was the first image in the synthesis of the company's upcoming campaign so the company brass was there to oversee my work and the work of the ad agency.  In addition to the actual baker from one of their stores we also had, in attendance, both the CEO and the CFO.  The only problem for me was authenticity versus the right look.  While the baker they brought to the shoot had the right professional credentials he was also about 23 years old, had some tattoos and just didn't look the part.  

I pulled the art director aside and voiced my concerns and we decided to go ahead and photograph the baker and then find a second solution.  No sense hurting feelings on the set.  As soon as we made our decision it dawned on me that the CFO had just the right look.  A bit older and with more gravitas. The art director suggested that since it was my idea I won the job of persuading the man in the suit to make a temporary career change and don the chef whites.  

Once we finished photographing the younger (real) baker we thanked him and sent him on his way.  Now we got down to the real business.  We had the CFO put on the chef's coat, pinned the back so it fit right, put a little powder on his face to keep him in a nice "matte" finish and proceeded to photograph. We had a range of smiling, not smiling and permutations that mixed both but for some reason the consensus was that this shot was our keeper.

I made a straight black and white print with no toning or softening for the ad agency to use in print production.  Later I went back into the darkroom and printed on several different double weight papers before I finally settled on the look of Agfa Portriga paper, toned in a dilute selenium toner.  The version up above is the one I put into my portfolio. 

My portrait of the CFO/Baker was lit with one very large soft box (4x6 feet) which was further softened by an extra layer of white, silk diffusion in front.  A sheet of white foamcore placed about ten feet to the opposite side provided fill light for the left side of the subject's face.

The camera was a Pentax 6x7 with a 165mm lens. The film was Ilford FP-4.

If you don't know the work of August Sander you might want to do some web research.  I find his work amazing not only for the extreme quality he brought to location lighting so many decades ago but also for the anthropological interest it kindles.  You really feel as though you have a window into the past.  You might also be interested in Irving Penn's book on photographing trades.


wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

Sander is basic and required knowledge - you just *have to* see his work. One of the truly great ones.

kirk tuck said...

He's as important to photography as Avedon and Penn. I love his portraits of trades people. I have several books (not the seven volume collection...which must be spectacular) and I browse them often. He was so focused and disciplined in his approach to working at portraiture.

Craig said...

Sander is one of the greats. For anyone who isn't familiar with his work, the Getty Museum's "In Focus" series has a good, inexpensive paperback volume of his photos, with reasonably intelligent discussion.

steveH said...

Some of Sander's portraits, including one of him and his wife, are collected at

Knowing the history of the period of his work makes it even more striking.

wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

I just have to visit the 'Museum Ludwig' again, next time I'm in Cologne, which is some 2-hour drive from here. They have a wonderful collection of Sander. And yes, as important as Avedon and Penn, and a true master of portraiture.

Dominic von Stösser said...

I see precisely why you made the decision you did, but I wonder whether you could share a photograph of the young, tattoo'd 'real' baker? What I've observed lately is that a lot of basic, "down-home" skills are being preserved, practiced and developed by the most unlikely people -- bakers, bicycle mechanics, barbers, photographers -- and it seems wrong to (for lack of a better word) retouch them out of the picture; while from a straight-laced marketing perspective the CFO makes a better "baker", it seems to perpetuate the illusion many people have where their food comes from.

Keith I. said...

Not only do I love reading your day to day thoughts, reviews and general how-to posts, but I have picked up so many great photographers to look into from your blog. Thank you for that!

Tom Swoboda said...

I loved Portriga paper for portraits. I so miss my days in the wet darkroom.

Ken Hurst said...

Ah, the power of advertising. I haven't had a Schlotsky's sandwich in years but I read this post a few days ago and then stopped at a Schlotsky's for lunch yesterday. Coincidence? I don't think so.

kirk tuck said...

Ken, darn. I didn't get a %. But you know what? Every few months, after seeing that photo in one of the portfolios I seem to end up the local Schlotzsky's as well.