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LIFE’s Canvas: Bobby Baker’s art is a monochromatic symphony

“Stage Harbor Light #10”

But as more opportunities in music came about, Baker says photography had to take a backseat. “I still shot here and there,” he says, “but I spent the next 13 years on the road, touring with a variety of different bands.” Eventually, though, gigs became fewer as the demand in the music industry for 8 to 10-piece bands dwindled, and Baker spent the next 25 years working as an executive in music retail. It was during this time that photography came back to call. “One day somebody I worked with happened to see some of my work from a long time ago and said, ‘You should do something with this,’ and I thought, yeah, maybe I should,” he recalls. “It peaked my interest again and got me going.” Baker and his wife, Dena, were living in New Hampshire at the time, and come every summer—and every free weekend—they came down to Chatham. “Every time I was down in Chatham I was shooting,” he says. “I realized I was best inspired to create my art on Cape Cod.” After Baker retired, he and Dena decided it was time to move to the Cape—it was time for Baker to pursue his photography full on.

“Nobska Light”

“It seemed like every time I went out on a serious shoot on the Cape, I was excited while I was doing it, because I knew I could feel it—I related to it,” Baker explains. “I’ve always said, whether it’s in business or in a variety of walks of life, to me, when you’re successful you feel some sort of rhythm, you get into a rhythm. I would feel a rhythm while I was out on the beaches here shooting.” For Baker, rhythm is a constant—whether musically speaking in his former career, or today in the way lighting and composition come into play in a photograph. “How I look at it is I find my rhythm this way now, in a visual art,” he says.

After nearly three years of searching for the right home on the Cape, Baker and Dena finally found the one in Cataumet and moved there in 2016. The property, on Route 28A, boasts an 1800s-era barn, perfect for Baker to use as an art gallery. The “Art Barn,” as he’s dubbed it, is not your average art gallery. “When you go through those red barn doors, you just feel art,” Baker says, noting the exposed, raw natural wood and paint stains on the floor and the walls, “like maybe an artist was there before,” he imagines. Inside the gallery, visitors will find the impressive works of local painters Rachel Avenia and Jeff Rutchik, as well as, of course, Baker’s signature, riveting black and white photography, predominantly in 17-by-22-inch prints.

“An Afternoon Walk”

“I have always leaned toward black and white,” says Baker. “To me, there’s more color in black and white than there is in color. By that I mean more expression, if done well. To do it well, you have to see in black and white, and that’s something that I’ve worked on. I can be walking along and I’ll see a setting that I want to capture, and I can sort of render in my mind whether it’s going to translate well in monochrome or it needs to be a color scene.”

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