When lockdown for us began in March of last year, I wasn’t focused much on photography or creativity of any kind, beyond rethinking daily life. We had so much new information coming at us daily, a completely new way of living, and that took all my energy.
However, baking has always been part of my creative arsenal, and being forced to spend almost all my time at home led me back to the comfort of the kitchen. Eventually, I clued in to the sourdough trend that was happening. Given that yeast was hard to come by, it seemed a good time to make my own starter and see what I could learn.
My first few loaves (actually, the loaves for several months) were rather clunky and not skillfully made. Of course, that makes sense given that practice brings improvement, as is true for most things in life. I was simply proud of the fact that I’d successfully made a starter, and that I had edible loaves!
In the height of summer, it’s hard to justify heating the oven to bake bread, but I did so anyway. I’d often get up at 5 a.m. to get the oven preheating, scoring loaves and popping them in to bake an hour later. This wasn’t a daily occurrence, but I did follow this routine once or twice a week. And as I did so, my confidence and knowledge of how to create those loaves grew stronger. And my loaves got better!
Each time I bake, I keep notes about the timing of that day’s loaf: when I feed the starter, what time I mix all the ingredients, the timing for handing the dough throughout the day, and so on. Sourdough bread has its own quirks (and a specific vocabulary, too) and the note-keeping was necessary to keep me on track. Kitchen notes come in quite handy to keep things running smoothly.
So what does bread baking have to do with photography? Well, the fact that I was spending my days at home, (since weekly coffee dates and photo outings were on hold), meant that my loaves of bread became my photography subjects. As my scoring designs improved, it was fun to photograph the loaves, looking for different angles, the best lighting, and different backdrops to showcase the designs. And as my digital files began to grow in number, I felt the urge to get those images into an analog diary of bakes.
Enter my trusty Instax printer and a fresh supply of Field Notes notebooks. I was able to turn my daily kitchen notes into entries in the notebook, and the digital files became mini Instax prints I could affix to the pages. Voila! A more accessible look at my work and a quick way to reference recipes and scoring designs.
Entering into this new year, I plan to streamline the analog diary, focusing less on the process notes and more on simply printing photos of the loaves and designs. And I plan to keep experimenting with new and different scoring!
Also, I created a new Instagram account, @wildyeastadventures, just for my sourdough photos (I shared mostly on my stories last year) if you care to follow along! As you can tell, this innocent little foray into baking grew and grew–just like my loaves!–and has become a comfortable part of my routine these days.
Are you a bread baker? Or is there another hobby you have that’s been important to you during these pandemic times? Do tell me about it!