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The Vesuvio Bakery on 160 Prince Street in New York. Leica M10 with Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. 400 ISO. © 2017 Thorsten Overgaard.

   
 
   

The Story Behind That Picture: "The Vesuvio Bakery"

By: Thorsten Overgaard. April 15, 2017.

 

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A couple of days ago I was on Prince Street in New York and noticed the nice light on the bakery on the other side of the street. I took some pictures but wasn't happy, so I returned the next day to try to get it right

The day before I had the 50mm Noctilux on, but there was cars in front of the place, preventing me from getting a full frame of the store. So I decided to put on the 28mm Summilux so I could work front the edge of the sidewalk and still get the whole front in the picture, without missing the feet of people.

The Joe & The Juice have opened on the opposite side. It's a Danish idea of a cool café with coffee, well-made sandwiches and healthy juices, served with loud music and tattooed hunks flirting with the female customers. It's a good place to refuel, and they even opened now in Hong Kong, London and soon in West Hollywood.

So I parked my daughter Robin there with a juice and one of their famous avocado sandwiches, and then I went waiting in front of the bakery with my back to a parked DHL truck. Not much space, but with the 28mm I could get the whole front, and I still had room enough to keep the camera upright so I could get straight lines.

 

Then I waited

The store front, the colors and the light were all perfect. I just needed some person, persons or activity that would make the place come alive.

It's a very similar picture to my "A Moment in Istanbul" where I saw a boy walking into a bakery and waited for him to come out again. I knew the moment I saw the Vesuvio Baker this was the same setup, and I guess I wanted to get a similar type of activity.

What makes me stop to take a photo is usually people and light. In this case I had the light to make a nice picture, but I also needed some life.

Whereas "A Moment in Istanbul" was a gift that appeared in front of me in matter of minutes, this one was a day in the making. It's almost so well-planned it feels like cheating.

Then again, one of the things I do is taking mental notes (and some times actually notes in notebooks) of places that are great at this time of the day, this time of year. I know that the 14th to 20th Street offers great sunset light when photographed from 6th Avenue half an hour before sunset, and I've used that a few times. I also know that in the morning on W 29th Street, at some point the sun reflects in a skyscraper so you get sun from two sides on the street. And so on.


The contact sheet: I did 120 pictures of the bakery, hoping one of them would be a moment of the right persons, rhythm and emotion. © 2017 Thorsten Overgaard.
The contact sheet: I did 120 pictures of the bakery, hoping one of them would be a moment of the right persons, rhythm and emotion. © 2017 Thorsten Overgaard.

 

In this case I was around for almost 40 minutes, drinking coffee and keeping an eye on my frame. I don't know what exactly I had hoped to happen, but there is only one way to do this and that is to set the light and focus and then hold the frame; and every time somebody walks into the frame, take a photo or more. If I wait till something happens, it's usually too late to frame, focus and take the photo. It will be over before I get it.

 

Should I stay or should I go?

While on the other side of the street, two dogs and their owners met in front of the bakery, but I was too far away and too late to get that one. I think that would have been a nice one.

You stay with a location as long as you feel it makes sense. Some times it's 10 seconds, other times it's half an hour. I've tried to stay in a place in snowstorms for 10-15 minutes or more, waiting for the right shot. Holding the camera tight in front of my eyes, keeping the frame straight to get the crop just right; waiting for something to happen that makes it all look right, with a good rhythm and an emotional impact.

120 photographs later, and that's not counting the 10 or so I did the day before, I decided enough is enough. My daughter Robin and I moved on to find shoes for her, and I discovered the Leica Store Soho was just around the corner from Vesuvio Bakery (and they had Leica M10 spare batteries in stock).

Back home on the computer, that's where you learn if you got something or not. You have your ideas when you are out and about, but the “great shots” are often not that great when you get them on the computer, while others you forgot about, actually works out pretty well.

 

 

I made a handful of selections from the series, and then reviewed them a couple of times, and then left it closed down for some hours before I looked again and showed my few selects to a couple of people to get their reaction.

The one that I finalized and decided on is this one, because it had a good reaction. It seems that for the viewer (who was not there), they think of it as an older picture from another era.

Aha! I hadn't thought of that. Coincidentally, I like photographs that are timeless: The ones where they could have been taken yesterday or in the 1950's, or in the 1980's. Nobody can tell, and it doesn't matter, but they feel historic; but mainly they open up for the viewer to add something to the photograph.

So I settled for that one.


The Vesuvio Bakery on 160 Prince Street in New York. Leica M10 with Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. 400 ISO. © 2017 Thorsten Overgaard.
The Vesuvio Bakery on 160 Prince Street in New York. Leica M10 with Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. 400 ISO. © 2017 Thorsten Overgaard.

 

It wasn't till I had done all this that I bothered to look up what the Vesuvio Bakery actually is and learned that is has a cool history to it. The bakery was opened in 1920 by Italians, from Napoli, who craved real Italian bread in New York. They had a son the same months as the bakery opened. There was bread in the oven, as they say, in more than one sense.

In any case, their son Victor Dapolito (1920-2003) ran errands and delivery for the bakery from age 8, and later he ran the bakery for the rest of his life till he passed away in 2003. He was also very active in the neighborhood and was often suggested to run for mayor or city council. He never did, but he was described as quite a character, very intelligent, and to be "'the heart and soul of the Village"'.

The bakery was closed down for a while after he passed away, and eventually Birdbath Bakery / The City Bakery took it over but kept the name on the front.

There you go.

In some ways you could say the bakery lives on in the spirit of Victor Dapolito, as a historic store front. Which all make me even more happy that I documented and preserved it.

I hope you enjoyed today's The Story Behind That Picture. As always, feel free to write me at thorsten@overgaard.dk with suggestions, comments and ideas.


Here is the black and white edition. It could also work, but the bakery and the colors of the Leica M10 sort of demand it to be a color version. Leica M10 with Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. 400 ISO. © 2017 Thorsten Overgaard.
Here is the black and white edition. It could also work, but the bakery and the colors of the Leica M10 sort of demand it to be a color version. Leica M10 with Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. 400 ISO. © 2017 Thorsten Overgaard.

 

 

 
     
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Above: The Vesuvio Bakery on 160 Prince Street in New York. Leica M10 with Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. 400 ISO. © 2017 Thorsten Overgaard.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

Feel free to e-mail to thorsten@overgaard.dk for
advice, ideas or improvements.

 

 
           
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