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.