During the press checking for the printing of Hong Kong As It Was, Edward examines a sheet for its reproduction details and overall quality.
A small but significant number of photographers have always, through one means or other, become publishers of their own or other photographers’ images. Almost always, given the personal, time and financial commitments that high quality publishing demands, such ventures are rooted in each photographer’s aim to achieve ideal image reproduction.
For me, a turning point came in 1995 with the relatively poor reproduction seen in Hong Kong’s Wild Places, published by a Hong Kong academic press. What to do? Why endure tough hours, and trying weather conditions to capture landscape photographs with memorable light – if the image quality, as seen in the printed book, is only middling? And compromised by less than optimum reproduction?
Similar thoughts lay behind what the photographer and publisher Galen Rowell, tragically killed in a plane crash in 2002, wrote. ‘To be a work of art’, Rowell reflected, ‘a book must be as near perfect as possible. It should integrate technical accomplishment with great meaning, and with its distinct parts interwoven with such delicacy that every element is justified in terms of both form and content.’ In publishing books, first for the Hong Kong Conservation Photography Foundation, and today for The Photographic Heritage Foundation, Rowell’s philosophy has been our guiding aim.
Printing a book is the final act in a long developmental process. It is by far the most exciting moment for a publisher. Months of detailed preparation come together. The book’s printed sheets fly off the press!
Besides the technical challenges of originating, printing and publishing books, a great pleasure is the relationships with highly skilled technicians and professionals: the photo scanners, imaging experts, designers, printers and logistics teams. My journey into publishing books was helped immeasurably by the expertise and practical know-how willingly shared by others. My thanks for this invaluable guidance appear on the Credits page.
Despite the ease of online publishing, and the greater range of photographic contrast that digital imaging can bring, for photographers, and also for many others, books retain their lasting place. ‘There is nothing like a printed book’, writes E.A. Bucchianeri. ‘The weight, the woody scent, the feel, the look…’ And for photographers, the subtle sheen of photo reproductions as seen on printed pages.