MJR Destroys a Cake

Photo by Tommy Martino

Believe it or not, they had a plan.

To visually display a story about the broken system of same-sex marriage, the Montana Journalism Review (MJR) photography team decided to blow up a wedding cake.

“Explosives are always inspiring,” said Photo Editor Hunter D’Antuono.

First, they enlisted MJR’s own in-house confection connoisseur, Deputy Managing Editor, Cheyenne Turcotte. The daughter of a former professional cake decorator, Turcotte grew up immersed in the craft.

She went to work, scouring Missoula for material. Ironically, Turcotte couldn’t find any toppers featuring two grooms, so she had to make her own. All told, the undertaking amounted to $80 worth of supplies, and seven hours of labor.

“I didn’t expect her to sink that much money into it, or put that much effort into it,” D’Antuono said.

With the delicacy poised for destruction, the photographers took over. D’Antuono found a mortar round in his desk, a leftover from past shenanigans. With surgical precision he cut a hole in the back of the cake and inserted the charge.

The team assembled the shot atop a nearby hill in Missoula. They used multiple cameras, including a Canon 1D-X, which takes up to 14 frames per second.

Giddy with anticipation, they lit the fuse and hid behind a tree. Five seconds later, chaos — or something like it — ensued.

“There was a lot of screaming,” D’Antuono said. “It definitely wasn’t the most legal procedure.”

The blast ignited a nearby patch of grass, a haunting recollection for D’Antuno, who had shot photos of forest fires just months before. Eventually, the crew stomped the fire out and surveyed the damage.

“It smoked a lot and popped the cake up into the air,” D’Antuono said. “It wasn’t the overall destruction we were hoping for.”

Even worse, the cameras hadn’t captured the precise moment of detonation, and the leftover cake shrapnel was inedible because of Turcotte’s focus on form rather than function.

“If I had any inkling the explosion wouldn’t work out, I would have made it taste a lot better,” she said.

Ultimately, the team didn’t come away with a good enough image for the magazine. D’Antuono conceded that the explosion could have been planned better, but nevertheless, it wasn’t a total waste.

“If anything, it was a decompressor for the stressful environment that is MJR at times,” he said.

To see the cake before the blast, check it out on page 19 of MJR 2014 or check back in January for the digital version of the story.