A good example of negative credit, culturally …
A while ago I was happy and fortunate to be asked to prepare artwork for the reprint of an acknowledged photo/art book (a classic some would say). The reprint of the classic 1990 photobook turned out fine. It was an interesting project and I did get ‘paid’ for my services, but, as usual when I like a project (and also when I heard the photographer/author is ‘precious’ about his work), I did push all buttons to overload on my input to ensure everyone would be happy with the resulting book. Hopefully they are?
Here is something I wrote at the start of the process:
“This book deserves to be reprinted. Apart from the photographs, it is the historical commentary, that makes it a document worthy of greater dissemination … it is a valuable resource.
The publisher wants quality (to please author and publisher’s reputation) but also wants cheap (to please unit price and make book price a reasonable £25 or so) … In ideal terms it should be a prestige 4 colour print job which should have a posh specification of papers to make up for the fact that it is a facsimile … and it should be priced around £40.
Facsimile … How to achieve a good quality reprint today from a book printed to so-so quality in 1990, while being constricted by unit cost and being steered towards a printer offering a very cheap price. Obvious to me that, if left to market concerns only, materials and print quality will be suffering in this choice.
Compromise: To reprint a photobook printed in 1990, using that book as a source, is a compromise. In this instance the offset Litho printing in 1990 used a coarser screen of dots to print than today’s offset litho printing process. Page scans will need some fiddling with to descreen the the book’s photographs and then to try to keep some of their integrity. For an artist or photographer to be ‘precious’ about their work, is possibly understandable in other circumstances (maybe), but when being reprinted using an old book as source material is ‘foot-stomping’ crazy! To add pressure to this process by also wanting to keep costs down while wanting quality is one of those ugly and purely capitalist vices. Compromise is needed from all to achieve a reasonable product at a price that will be feasible in today’s ‘Amazon’ marketplace.
Compromise: Reprinting a book of colour and black and white photographs using a book printed in 1990 as source may, with some great effort, fiddling, magic …, give a reasonable end result, but it is a compromise. To also be pressuring the manager of the project to use a ‘cheap’ but good printer … and get the end results to please a ‘precious’ photographer is a nonsense.
Compromise: Its a fucking compromise, I’ll do my best, the printer will do his best … a compromise will have to be accepted for this project, in its present constricted configuration, to see the light of day.”
Interestingly, since its publication, the reprint has received some healthy praise in that it has boosted (and revived) the reputation and standing of its photographer/author. And well, that’s probably how it should be, but also the publisher has been applauded … for his visionary role in being clearsighted enough to believe in (t)his product and this particular photographer (who he has championed). And also, again, thats probably how it should be. All healthy stuff, I think.
In the upside-down-world we live in, in any mention of ‘their’ product (in this case, a book), it is the owners of the means of production (and in this case that is the ‘publisher’) who are the beneficiaries, getting all the back-slapping and (maybe) financial rewards. Whereas it is the invisible workers behind the scenes (artworker, typesetter, proofer, screenmaker, printer, guillotine, finisher, packer … apologies to all I have missed on this brief list), whose time and sometimes beyond expected efforts are what have created that fucking gloriously crafted item in your hands, a beautiful, beautiful book, albeit a reprint …
I suppose you could argue ‘well, they have been paid!’ … but even then, in order to make any profit out of this product/book the ‘behind the scenes workers’ cannot be paid their true worth (its called capitalism!). It cannot be denied that without the critical and necessary participation of these slaves to the rhythm this project would have failed, so it is quite a sleight for them to be so evenly and haughtily ignored by all in the cultural/arts media … almost like a ‘fuck-them’ … Those involved in the production of this book can scour any review of this book vainly looking for any mention of their skills, their inconsiderable and laboured effort (‘vainly’ used here without apology, and pointedly adopting its double meaning).
A book is so much more than its contents or the brand stamped on its spine, get off your perch you arty-farty playthings … credit where credit is due, and some!