In May 2016 I wrote a blog post called “The many challenges of being on press”. In this post I explored the difficulties I had had coming to terms with offset printing, and getting my head around the new format, coming from digital printing as I had done. I remember telling the story of being on press with Peter Bialobrzeski for the printing of Cairo Diary back in 2014 and just not being able to see what he was seeing in terms of colours.
I’ve come a long way since then, and the above mentioned post was written while I was printing our new book Moment by Wolfgang Hildebrand. The ironic thing is that, while I was hugely satisfied with what I saw when we were printing, the results were not good enough and we made the decision to not release the book as planned, and instead to reprint it this November just gone.
But let’s go back to the beginning first. How did I come across this project and why did I want to publish it?
My core guiding value, if you can call it that, at The Velvet Cell is: “would I want to own this book?” Essentially, I am making books that I want to possess and share with others. From the very beginning I felt the photography that I wanted to promote was under represented and I wanted its makers give it a platform; a voice.
I came across Wolfgang’s project on the internet - it really blew me away. There again was this emotional reaction that is so important; that no explanation that ever make up for. You can understand why the work is important, or what it’s about, but if you don’t have that instant emotional reaction then it’s just not the right project for you. I try to let that reaction be my guide when choosing projects.
I emailed Wolfgang to ask him if there was a book of this work available. There had to be. There wasn’t he said. So my path was clear, I have to make the book!
What I’m trying to say here is that my viewpoint is the same; I needed the book - whether I am simply buying an already published book, or I have to go out and make the book.
The design process was pretty straightforward forward for once - Wolfgang and I both had a similar vision for how the book should be designed and laid out. We had a rough draft within a few weeks. So far everything very was going smoothly!
Wolfgang’s images are composites of several different images. He told me on one of our Skype calls how, after having the initial idea for the project, he spent another year thinking about how to actually pull it off technically. This just shows you the level of complexity in the images.
Therefore, when it came to print I had many things to keep an eye on. Using the proofs he sent me I found myself mainly focused on making sure the images were reproduced as well as could be. But in this I laxed on colour control and missed a few things that, while on their own were not so significant, added up. I completely missed this on the day and was actually really excited for Wolfgang to get the advanced copies.
His response was measured; he said there were a few things in the book that he wasn’t expecting and he wanted some time to think about it. Once we talked and I heard his concerns I offered to reprint the book.
As a publisher publishing a project that someone else has created, poured time and energy into, we have a duty to ensure that we represent the author’s vision as closely as we can. While we agreed that most people would not even notice the discrepancies in the book, what mattered most is that Wolfgang was proud of it. If he didn’t feel it best represented his work then I couldn’t be proud of it either.
We decided to rejig the images, and we talked about what I needed to pay special attention to for the next printing. At the printers, I sat down with the technician and showed him the old book, the issues that there were, and we discussed how to get around it. In the end the printing went really well, and I’m really happy with the results! (though, based on the previous attempt, that’s not saying much!)
And so it was - another lesson learnt about printing and publishing! But all’s well that ends well! And, despite working on this project for over a year, I am still as excited about the images as I was on day one - which tells me that I definitely chose the right project to publish! I hope you will enjoy it too!