William A. Bake: Photographer, Writer, Environmentalist, and Practitioner-in-Residence

“Boundary Cliffs”, 2003

William A. Bake, (1939–2016), a native of Michigan and resident of Boone, North Carolina, was an accomplished photographer, writer, teacher, and environmentalist.

William Bake seen hiking the Boundary Mountains, 2004

Bake is known for his stunning landscape and nature photography on Appalachia and southern regionalism. He was even considered to be the “Andrew Wyeth of photography.”

The Blue Ridge by William A. Bake, 1977

Before beginning his career path into professional photography, Bake worked as a writer and editor for the National Park Service in the Division of Publications where he broadened his experiences in observational writing and environmentalism. By 1976, Bake had started publishing his works on the Blue Ridge region and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was around the same time that Bake began to teach at Appalachian State University while living in Boone, North Carolina.

“Shadows on Ridges”, Boundary Mountains, 2005

After spending three years as an Appalachian State Practitioner-in-Residence for the Educational Media at the College of Learning and Human Development, he studied under famous photographer, Ansel Adams. This ultimately caused Bake to leave his job as a teacher to pursue his passion and a career in photography.

“Meat Camp Cabin”, 1979

By collaborating with publishing companies like Oxmoor House Publishing and Viking Press, Bake’s research and observations on Appalachia and the South led to publishing some of his major books: The American South: Four Seasons of the Land (1980); The American South: Towns and Cities (1982); Wayfarer: A Voice from the Southern Mountains (1988), and Valle Crucis (1997). “Meat Camp Cabin” (above), “On High Route”, “High January”, and “White Bear Ridge” are now some of Bake’s well-known work in photography.

“Across the Divide”, Boundary Mountains, 2005

Bake’s photographs have appeared in Southern Living, Natural History, Audubon, Reader’s Digest, National Wildlife, The New York Times, Sierra Club, Popular Photography, The Washingtonian, GEO, Southern Accents, Yankee, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, International Photo-Technik, Backpacker, National Wildlife, Travel and Leisure, National History, Outdoor World, National Geographic Society, and more.

“Appalachian Pastorale”, 1979

Bake used large format camera for his photography. He is widely published in distinguished magazines, exhibited in museums, and bought by serious collectors all over the nation.

“Bass Lake”, Blue Ridge Parkway, 2006

With much of his photography primarily focused on the Appalachian mountains and the southern region, Bake continued to capture photographs of landscapes and culture within his local area in High Country.

“Autumn Hillsides”, Blue Ridge Parkway, 2007 (left); “Doughton Park Lone Rider”, Blue Ridge Parkway, 2009 (right)
“Cattle”, Moses Cone, 2006 (left); “Cone Manor Porch”, Moses Cone, 2009 (right)

Bake lived with his wife, Claudia, and two children, Lorena and Bill, in Boone, North Carolina. William A. Bake passed away on October 9th, 2016.

William’s son, Bill Bake, 1972 (left); William and his wife, Claudia Bake, 1963 (middle); William’s daughter, Lorena Bake, 1982 (right)

Mr. William Bake donated his photographic and written materials to the Special Collections in the Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University. By Spring 2017, his collection, AC. 1221: William A. Bake Papers, can be requested from the closed stacks at the Cratis Williams Reading Room within Special Collections on the fourth floor of the library.

William Bake at the Boundary Mountains, 2006

An exhibit based on the collection, featuring William Bake’s life and work, can be found in the glass cases outside Special Collections, located on the fourth floor of the university library. The exhibit will be up until the end of January 2017.

“Long Hope Sunset”, Undated