Ron Jude on press with The Ice Plant in Korea

Ron Jude discusses going on press for his new book Other Nature to be released by The Ice Plant in Fall 2008.

I began working on the basic concept of Other Nature several years ago, and since then the idea for this book has gone through numerous revisions. Only a few of the original photographs made the cut for the final sequence. Tricia Gabriel and Mike Slack from The Ice Plant in Los Angeles agreed to publish the book in late 2007, and they set a target release date of October 2008. We came up with a final image selection and sequence in L.A. in early 2008. The various design elements of the book were being worked on through mid-June or so. As we were shooting design ideas back and forth, drum-scans and light jet prints were being made of my negatives. The light jet prints were sent to Samhwa Printers in Seoul, Korea at the end of June. This was the start of what’s known as the “pre-press” process.

During the month of July, Samhwa scanned the prints, and placed their image files into the finalized InDesign document that Mike and Tricia uploaded to them around the time I sent them the prints. Samhwa then generated "wet proofs" of the book layout and reproductions. During the proofing process you check for any basic layout errors or typos (we found a couple), and you also make color corrections to each individual image. I was sent one set of proofs (I live in Ithaca, NY), and the staff at The Ice Plant got another set. After we independently checked for errors and color corrections, we had a lengthy conference call, during which we compared notes and agreed on what needed to be communicated to Samhwa for the next round of proofs. This information was then given to Jacques Marlow, who typically handles all coordination and communication between The Ice Plant and the printer.

About a week before we were scheduled to go to Korea for the press check, we each received a second set of proofs. Things looked vastly better than they did on the first-round, but there were still a good number of images that needed further corrections. This time we waited until we got to Seoul to tell them what sort of fine-tuning needed to be done.
We were hosted by Samhwa Printing for a little over a week in August. This allowed us to check and approve every step of the process. The following photographs represent the basic steps involved in the printing of my new book Other Nature, which will be released by The Ice Plant (and distributed by D.A.P.) in October.

1. Samhwa has a vast printing facility with several floors of presses and binding machines. This is the Heidelberg 4-color (+ varnish) offset press that we used to print Other Nature. Once the proofs are deemed “ready-to-print,” plates are made and the printing process begins.

2. The press operator’s station, where minute adjustments can be made to the color and registration.

3. From left to right: Tricia Gabriel, me, Irving Seong, Samhwa’s liaison to The Ice Plant, and the press operator. We’re looking at a sheet of reproductions under a 5000K lamp, and discussing possible corrections.

4. Comparing the sheets coming off the press with the original prints.

5. The press operator making adjustments to each image.

6. Once a sheet of images looks good, and you’re satisfied that no further corrections need to be made, you sign off on the sheet by putting your initials on it. At that point, the press operator prints the entire run for that sheet. It can be a terrifying commitment, worse than marriage or bungee jumping.

7. Mike Slack checking a few details with Irving before the sheets are stacked onto a palette.

8. A palette of page sheets, ready to be cut, folded, and bound.

9. The cover images are printed on paper with an adhesive backing. They will eventually be laminated and trimmed, and then adhered by hand onto an embossed area of the cover.

10. Cloth is wrapped and glued onto book-board for the cover. These are the elements that will be foil-stamped on the spine, blind-stamped on the back-cover, and stamped with an area large enough on the front to accommodate the cover image.

11. The spine and back-cover stamping plates.

12. This is the foil-stamping machine. It’s a hot-press stamping machine that simultaneously embosses and adheres colored foil to the cover and spine.

13. A proof of the blind-stamped area on the back-cover of Other Nature.

14. The saddle-stitching machine that cuts and sews the book pages together.

15. The final step of the process: the cover is adhered to the sewn book pages.

Going on press for the printing of photography books is essential. As anybody who has done it will tell you, it can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it’s something you have to do if you have any hope of your reproductions resembling your source photographs. I’ve done it a few times, both with my own books and with a couple of books by other artists, and, although I now have a pretty clear sense of how the process works and how to effectively communicate nuanced corrections, I still find it stressful. I’m used to working very slowly on my printing. When you’re printing a book, however, you have to make quick decisions, and be able to translate your corrections from RGB to CMYK. Also, once you commit to a sheet of pages being printed, there’s no going back. That said, it’s also an immensely satisfying experience to realize a book in its final form after months (sometimes years) of planning. It’s also a way to exercise some control over this final, important phase of your project.


Interview with publisher Michael Abrams

Michael Abrams is the publisher of Loosestrife Editions. His first book, Berlin in the Time of the Wall, established Loosestrife as a high quality book design and publishing company. Since this first book, he has published the work of Anthony Hernandez, Waiting, Sitting, Fishing and Some Automobiles, John Gossage, Putting Back the Wall
Secrets of Real Estate (© John Gossage, shown left), and a book of his found photos titled Strange and Singular.

©Michael Abrams. Strange and Singular

MM: You started Loosestrife in 2004 with the outstanding book (and one of my favorites) of John Gossage’s work titled Berlin in the Time of the Wall. It is 464 pages, casebound, slipcased with and acetate dustjacket. Why such a monumental project for your first publication and why John Gossage?

MA:I’ve collected photography and photo books since the early 1990’s and by 2002 was looking for another outlet to continue my photography interests. Around the same time John Gossage and I met through a mutual friend. He had just published Snake Eyes

and I casually mentioned how cool I thought it would be to publish photo books. The Berlin book had been percolating for some time but he warned me that it was an “impossible” project. Within a few weeks we had formulated an approach that would work for both of us. That was the start of our publishing efforts and great friendship.

MM: You just won the coveted honor for Rencontres d’Arles Prix de Livre for your book Strange and Singular. This book is a unique concept in that each book has 3 different found photos blown into the text block. How did this project on vernacular photography and applied text come about? Where did the photos come from and does their inclusion have something to do with the concept?

MA: I started collecting vernacular photographs about 5 years ago. I was fascinated at the similarity of my reaction to a great snapshot as to an Arbus or Friedlander. The experience of finding an image that holds one’s fascination and curiosity is what draws me to the medium. Collecting the vernacular material is also a bit of a protest against the monetization of the photo collecting process. It’s a wonderful way to hone your eye and find pleasure in a simple image free from the financial aspects of collecting.

One day John said ….these pictures you’ve put together are really great, I think there is a book here. I initially thought he was BS’ing me. But after looking at many of the books which utilized snapshots or found images I came to believe that the material could be presented in a more insightful way. I wanted to create a book that was true to the attributes of the work. It’s intimacy, its ability to reveal the parts of ourselves that we don’t readily expose.

As a photo book collector I’m very much attuned to what it feels like to hold a book in your hands-- to experience it, by way of scale, materials or references to other books. The original pictures inserted in the book serve a few purposes. First, they are a way of physically experiencing the material and breaking down the wall between the original object and the printed page. Secondly, they also create surprise and wonder to the process of paging through the book. You come upon them and initially think –what’s this doing here…..will there be more?

MM: The aesthetic of the three artists you have published—John Gossage, Anthony Hernandez and yourself— are very similar. Why did you select the three artists whose work you have published so far?

MA: There is certainly an aesthetic to the book design which comes from John. He is attuned to how a book operates and creating an additional dimension to the photo book experience. Each of these books has a strong relationship between the material and the book craft.

MM: How do you accept proposals? Or do you accept proposals?

MA: We’ll call you……..

Half joking but we both have day jobs so we operate differently than most publishers. We usually have a relationship with the work or the photographer. We’d encourage work that matches our aesthetic.

MM: Who designed and printed the catalogues? How many did you print?

MA: John is the design chief. We printed in China and except for the first Berlin book we find 1,000 copies is the right number for our books.

©John Gossage. Berlin in the Time of the Wall

MM: Do you recommend a photographer or publisher go on press for the each book?

MA: It’s amazing how much nuance there is in the printing process. I’d highly recommend it.

MM: How would you recommend a photographer get funding for his or her project aside from personal funds? Have limited edition prints with your projects?

MA: We’ve done some limited editions and they can help. However, I think they have been overdone and I’d be curious to see how well they are selling. They work best with well established photographers where the limited editions provide an attractive opportunity to own a print.

We look to a set of prints from the book as a means of funding a project. It’s really the compensation for the break even or loss on a project. It’s very difficult to make the numbers work without some level of outside support. A champion of your prints is a good place to start.

MM: Who is your favorite photographer or one who has impacted your life and work?

MA: John Gossage has been my photo mentor and helped me enter this world in a way I could never have found on my own. I’m naturally drawn to the subject matter and aesthetics of Friedlander, Eggleston, Shore, Adams and Baltz.

©Anthony Hernandez. Waiting, Sitting, Fishing and Some Automobiles

MM: In your personal work, are you influenced by other mediums other than photography?

MA: I’ve become fascinated with collage and Ray Johnson in particular.

MM: What blogs do you read? Magazines?

MA: B54 is the best blog by far on photobooks. Modern Art Notes. Adam Bell. Maybe Alec Soth will come out of blog retirement and grace us with his insights.

MM: What is your favorite book, photo or otherwise?

MA: The City in History by Lewis Mumford and The New West by Robert Adams.

MM: Do you have an odd or funny photography related story?

MA: Gerry Badger is in charge of funny photo stories…….usually drinking and sex are involved.


¿donde están mis hijos?

Last night, I just attend a brief lecture on the the HR 5889 Orphan Works Act of 2008. I got just enough knowledge to make me dangerous. Now is it good or bad for artists? Well, I can not say for sure (probably not good is in the back of my mind) until I give it more of a read. Here is a link to read the legalise for yourself. You can also check out the Senate Bill S. 2913. Both bills can be tracked to see how far along they are in the process AND you can find your Congressmen and/or women here.

Art Market BS

I admit that I am truly fascinated at how the art market works and has continued to thrive, but I also believe that some aspects (and artworks) are ridiculous. The market can be influenced and fixed by one or a select few-- now primarily collectors and curators. Such is the influence of collector Steve Cohen who in 2005 purchased Damien Hirst's piece The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living for $12 million dollars. Here is a video which briefly details the process of making the piece and then later exhibiting it at the Met. For the sake of art.

To find out more on the economic aspects you can check out the new book titled The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art (out in the US in September) which I found out about from the Gallery Hopper blog. This blog leads to an article in The Sun titled Bubbles, Booms, and Busts: The Art Market in 2008. According to The Sun article the book is "single best guide to both the anthropology and the economics of contemporary art markets."


Dress Show: Paul Kooiker

© Paul Kooiker from Seminar

Interview with publisher Morten Andersen

©Morten Andersen from Fast City

Morten Andersen is an Oslo-based photographer who has published five books under his imprint of Hit Me! Books:
Fast City, Oslo F., White Nights: Rocknroll photography, Leira and Fast/Days.

MM: Who designed and printed the books? How many did you print?
MA: I have designed all the books myself, only had some help with fonts and the technical parts from a friend who is a pro designer.
The different books have different editions:
Fast City: 1200, Days of Night: 1000, Oslo F: 500, Leira: 450, White Nights: 800 , Fast/Days: 1000 and forthcoming; ass time goes by: 1000

MM: How would you recommend a photographer get funding for his or her project aside from personal funds? Do limited edition prints help?

MA: I made a ltd edition of 15 for Days of Night and and an edition of 30 for Fast/Days and got some money from that, but it haven’t made a big difference for me. As I mentioned earlier, it is a problem to get money back from the different booksellers. Money comes in small amounts here and there often after a looooooong time so the money have to be in place before the release date. I had some support from official foundations but the first one was financed from insurance money after someone stole all my camera stuff and other items from my apartment, the next one is financed with a bank loan for building a new bathroom ....:-D

©Morten Andersen from Oslo F.

MM: There are similarities between your work and that of Anders Petersen and many Japanese photographers, most notably Daido Moriyama. Did these photographers have an impact on your work? If not, who is your favorite and/or most influential photographer?
MA: They have both been very important for me. Anders was one the first photographers I discovered when I started in the early 80s and when I first saw Moriyama and some other japanese photographers in the Aperture issue Black Sun in about 1990 I was totally taken by that. But before that I had already looked at William Klein who I believe was important for the Japanese photographers also... but yes, they have both had an big impact on me. Other old favorites are Lee Friedlander, Winogrand, Eggleston and Kertesz.

MM: In your personal work, are you influenced by other mediums other than photography?

MA: It was my interest in music who led me to photography but of course also film, literature and other art and stuff around you influence you.

©Morten Andersen from Fast/Days

MM: What blogs do you read? magazines?
MA: I read 5b4.blogspot.com. I seldom read magazines, but I buy a lot of books..

MM: What is your favorite book, photo or otherwise?

MA: One of my favorites from the last years is Emi Anrakuji’s first one-- not so crazy for the latest one but love the first. Other favorites are Poste Restante by Christer Strømholm, Showground by Paul Kooiker, Invisible City by Ken Schles, Waffenruhe by Michael Schmidt, Solitude of Ravens by Fukhase, and various Moriyamas books.

I am also a fan of Jack Pierson, Annlies Strba, Franz Roh, Christopher Wool, Boris Mikhailov, Nan Goldin and others; but find a lot of the photobooks coming out these days quite a bit boring...

MM: You obviously love music and have worked as a photographer for the music industry. Do you have a favorite group or genre of music to photograph? Why?
MA: When I started shooting in 1980 it was of local punk bands and it has been a lot of them since then. I almost don’t shoot bands anymore but I worked close with the Norwegian deathpunk band Turbonegro from 1990-1998, a great band and great to shoot. My next book is entirely dedicated to them, 315 pictures, 512 pages. Due out in September!!

I listen to a lot of different music but my all time favorite band is of course the Stooges.
©Morten Andersen from Leira

MM: Do you have an odd or funny photography related story?
MA: There might be some but can’t think of any right now........ but if you are in NY October 29th I will have a lecture at ICP and hopefully remember some then...!


Interview with publisher Jonathan Hollingsworth

Jonathan Hollingsworth, with his imprint Just One Guy Press, is currently working on his second book Everybody I Ever Met in L.A. (image from series shown to left) due in November 2008. Here he discusses the experience of publishing the new book and his first book, What We Think Now.

MM: What made you want to self-publish?
JH: With my first book, What We Think Now (2006), I was working against a deadline which was the opening for my first solo exhibit, at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, alongside exhibits by Alec Soth and Lise Sarfati. Having already worked a year at Twin Palms, I knew the amount of time that goes into the submission process, and subsequent process of publishing a book. This was time I didn’t have. So, given my contacts with Twin Palms’ printers, I decided to publish the book myself. In retrospect, I’m glad I did. It was a learning experience I would’ve never had without taking that gamble.

©Jonathan Hollingsworth from What We Think Now

The downside was that I never found a distributor. I contacted a few, and we discussed the prospect of working together, but their terms would have made it difficult to recoup my investment in the print run. Ultimately this meant that I did everything myself: generated every invoice, packed every book, called the bookstores three months later when I still hadn’t been paid. Fortunately the latter wasn’t a common problem!

MM: Why did you choose to produce the books in the format you selected?
JH: Originally, I was going to print the book as a hardcover, but later decided to print softcover. The book is about young people’s take on the war, and so I wanted young people to be able to buy a copy without thinking twice, which is why I ultimately chose a format which was more economical. I was really happy with the outcome—people often comment on the quality of the printing—and while high production values are important, I was more interested in publishing a book that made a compelling statement, rather than publishing an art object too precious to be handled by the guests.

MM: Who designed and printed the catalogues? How many did you print?
JH: I designed the book myself: creative autonomy was the big perk of self-publishing. Samhwa in Seoul printed a run of 1,000, which was essentially the minimum. Two years later I have 100.

MM: How would you recommend a photographer get funding for his or her project aside from personal funds? Do limited edition prints help?
JH: I’m the last person to answer this question. In fact, I could take a lesson or two on the subject, as all my ventures have been personally funded. The execs at Bank of America send me postcards from Jackson Hole, Hawaii and Iceland . . . I’m going to be offering a limited edition for Everybody I Ever Met in L.A., so we’ll see . . .

©Jonathan Hollingsworth from Everybody I Ever Met in L.A.

MM: Who is your favorite photographer or one who has impacted your life and work?
JH: Duane Michals was an early hero. His use of text and image was a big influence, and judging from my work today, still is. Three days after I started working at Twin Palms, Duane showed up to start working on his latest book with us, The Adventures of Constantine Cavafy. He and I sat side-by-side in front of my computer, all day for a couple of days. The heart-in-the-throat deference lasted five minutes. He insulted the shirt I was wearing, so of course I had to point out his choice of pink socks.

MM: In your personal work, are you influenced by other mediums other than photography?
JH: Of course. I think I’m influenced by everything, so it’s hard to list all of my influences, diplomatically.

MM: What blogs do you read? Magazines?
JH: No blogs, except, um, yours. The New Yorker comes to my house once a week and I look at the cover, and toss it onto a stack on my shelf, and then feel very anxious about the growing tower. When I have the time, I read fiction mostly. I studied English literature in college, so it’s a habit I still haven’t kicked.

MM: What is your favorite book, photo or otherwise?
JH: My favorite is always the latest. Right now I’m reading The End of Alice by A.M. Homes, about an incarcerated pedophile and his correspondence with a 19-year-old paramour, home from college for the summer. And I just saw Chris and Don, the documentary about Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, which gave me hope that I might not spend the rest of my life with a pug named Gladys. If I had a pug named Gladys . . .

MM: Do you have an odd or funny photography related story?
JH: Two weeks ago I went down to Memphis to meet with William Eggleston for the signing of the remaining 1st editions of 5x7. It was a really hot, humid day, and I was hard at work opening towers of boxes and pulling out stacks of books, and he, very hospitably asked if I wanted some water, 4,000 year old spring water, he specified. Of course I did, but ironically, it was served in a tiny Dixie cup, the sort you might get at the dentist. Later, he dropped an Alka-Seltzer tablet in his cup of water, and casually sipped, as though it might have been an espresso, between signing books.

MM: Do you like man boobs?
JH: Only on myself.

Les Rencontres d'Arles Book Awards

Rencontres d'Arles's 2008 annual photography festival in Arles, France selected their annual book awards in July. The prize for Contemporary Book Award went to Michael Abrams for Strange and Singular (image shown above) and for Historical Book Award the honor went to Nein Onkel. Both using vernacular imagery in an unusual way.
Fortunately, all the nominees for the honor are listed on the Rencontre d'Arles site. Some of which I would like to note as a few of my favorites for the year.
Mind you, some of the books in the nominees list have not made it across my so the list above might be incomplete.
This blog will host an interview with Strange and Singular author Michael Abrams later in the summer.