Broken Banjo Photography

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Donna in the Bakery: Homer, Alaska

This is Donna. In 1982 she founded the Fresh Sourdough Express, a fine bakery in Homer Alaska. To do so, she had to drive a van and trailer from Washington state, up through Canada, to parts unknown in the distant north. The vehicle was a mobile bakery, a bread-slinging wagon that paid her way along the Alcan Highway.

In late summer of 2003, I vagabonded into Homer, after several months of traveling. I had left the Florida Everglades in April and ended up at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula in August. I slept in the local hostel for a night.

The two photos on this page were shot using one of my favorite (and affordable!) techniques.  They were taken on an old Pentax K1000 film camera.  Some of you may recognize this as the bulletproof student camera that many of us used when learning film photography.

After developing the negatives, I did NOT make prints in the darkroom.  Instead, I wandered into the digital photo studio at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.  There, using a Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED scanner, I ran the strips of negatives through and into a computer.  These scanners are amazing, and can give you resolutions of 4000 DPI or more (better than any 35mm camera on the market).
The next day, looking for work and completely without money or plan, I walked into the Fresh Sourdough Express and handed them a resume. Being late in the tourist season, I expected that I had a very small chance to find any work in town. After just a few minutes, Kevin, Donna's husband and business partner, came back to the counter and asked if I could begin work the next day.

Over the next five years, I spent four summers in Homer, driving up as early as April when the Yukon River was still thickly frozen over, and leaving around October when the raindrops threaten edges of ice and the days begin shortening dramatically. Donna has kept up with me, and I with her; most years she and Kevin call me at some point to ask, only 30% kidding, if they could fly me back to Alaska to work the bakery.

Using the technique above gave me very large digital files, which could be tweaked, cropped, balanced, toned, etc., and saved for future use. Scanning in your negatives results in wonderfully powerful and high-quality images, which can be printed quite large.  In the prints you may see the film grain, but you'll be hard-pressed to ever see any pixelation unless you are going wall-sized, or have done extensive editing in post.  
They live their lives primarily in Hawai'i now, and finally sold the bakery in Homer after 30 years. They and their son Jazz (who was one of the brightest pre-teens I'd had the pleasure to hang out with) recently swung through Portland and had dinner with Anna and I on Thanksgiving Eve. Jazz has grown, Kevin is his wonderfully goofy-and-kind self, and Donna is healthy, happy, and working hard to make sure the world is a nutritious, thoughtful place.

We all have thousands of "what-if" moments in our lives. What if I hadn't walked in to the bakery? What if I hadn't taken the suggestion of an Anchorage barista to head south to Homer? What if I was never shown the joy of baking bread? What if? 

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