Danbury photographer portrays Ridgefield’s ‘timeless’ beauty in self-produced digital book

RIDGEFIELD — Photographer Christopher Michael Yake spent two years taking photos of eight historic roads in Ridgefield in each of the four seasons. His goal was to preserve memories from his youth and capture his former hometown’s "beauty," he said. 

“I always thought (Ridgefield) was really charming,” said Yake, a Ridgefield native who now lives in Danbury. “It’s a town that has changed big time as a lot of towns have over the years but Ridgefield still maintains that charm and that history of the Revolutionary War… If you look really hard enough, the past is not far from Ridgefield.”

Yake's photographs can be viewed in “Roads of Ridgefield,” a digital book he photographed, produced and uploaded onto his website, www.cyakedesign.com/roads-of-ridgefield.

Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Yake and his family spent two summers in Ridgefield, in a house at 251 Farmingville Road that served as their summer cottage. Yake’s family bought the house and moved to Ridgefield full-time in 1974.

Yake described the move from Brooklyn to Ridgefield as “a huge culture shock for me.”

“It was really like night-day between Ridgefield and Brooklyn,” Yake said.

Reminiscing his time in Ridgefield, Yake said he used to visit the Little League field behind his house where he ate cheeseburgers with friends and played Cowboys and Indians, Kick the Can and other games he never would have played in Brooklyn. He also recalled walking along Farmingville Road and observing how people depend on cars or bikes for transportation – unlike Brooklyn and its public transportation.

Yake lived on Farmingville Road from 1974 to 1996. He earned an art degree at Western Connecticut State University where his mother worked as a professor. He said he returned to Ridgefield after college, and then moved to Danbury.

Yake said “Roads of Ridgefield” was a project he had at the back of his mind for a long time. He said he originally considered photographing the roads of Ridgefield before deciding to take the idea a step further and photograph each road in each season. 

The opportunity to engage in the project came up during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. Yake said he drove around town to determine which roads meant the most to him and which roads might mean the most to his future readers.

The eight historic roads featured in “Roads of Ridgefield” are Farmingville Road, Mamanasco Road, North Salem Road, Main Street, George Washington Highway, Limestone Road, Bennetts Farm Road and Old Stagecoach Road.

Yake said he took a lot of effort to get clean shots of the roads, which he said took a lot of patience.

“If you can imagine Main Street Ridgefield on a busy Saturday afternoon how long I’d have to wait for no cars to go out, I had to be super patient and just kind of keep my focus on the ultimate goal,” Yake said, “and over the past two years, it’s exactly what I did.”

Yake said it’s “a big feeling of accomplishment” to get his project underway, finish it and then publish it online. He said his end goal was to get “Roads of Ridgefield” organized and published in a format he could afford.

“Ideally, I’d love to have a hardcover book, a book for the coffee table,” Yake said, “but to publish that, that would be quite an undertaking, so the goal was to get it digitally reproduced."