This past spring I was invited to Heidelberg, Germany to visit the Kehrer Verlag offices and to be on press for my book PRESENCE: The Invisible Portrait. Kehrer had agreed to put out my collection of hidden celebrity photographs about a year before so we were in the final stages of prepping the material for publication. Below are my five tips for finishing your photo book.
1. Finishing Details
I was aware that there were a few details to be sorted out before the book was ready to go to press but I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d spend four days in the publisher’s offices. Some of the work was finalizing the texts for the book, which was my sole responsiblity, but then we did hours of work on the specifics of the cover and literally every page, one by one, throughout the book.
I worked primarily with Hannah Feldmeirer on this. She was reserved at first but we soon bonded and had ongoing discussions (arguments) on a variety of topics (children, art careers, public transit ethics). My time with her was an invaluable lesson in the importance of obsessing the details and some of my most relaxed and enjoyable while in Germany.
Making matchprints is something that I am rarely a part of, usually magazines and ad agencies commission them, so when I was told to make a set for the book it was a little daunting. So, half the decisions about how to do them I just guessed (like what size to make them – the size of the actual book page?) and the other I asked my lab to help me with (Picturehouse, who did the final matchprints and made everything wonderful).
I sent the full set of matchprints ahead of me so that Patrick Horn, the in-house color master, could start working with them. He then spent days testing and studying them so that when we were actually on press everything would go predictably. And, here is the biggest take-away of this whole experience: there is very little that an artist can do to adjust their images while on press, so make those adjustments before going to the printing-house.
It’s funny standing there at the printing plant, the machine is churning out the pages, the technician holding that matchprint that you made weeks before, and he’s having me sign off on each one, but I get the distinct feeling that this is merely a formality. The matchprint is his guide, I’m just the annoying client who must be humored.
3. Bonding With The Team
Going to Germany and visiting the folks who will be publishing my book was as crucial as any part of this process. Frankly, I was so appreciative that they took on my project that it seemed like the least that I could do. And, they were super gracious hosts. Alexa Becker, who initialed the talk about doing the book met me out for dinner twice, and Klaus Kehrer, the owner of the company and final decision maker, took me out on another evening.
And, I got to meet the rest of the Kehrer team, some of whom I’d worked with in prep for the book, like Ariane Braun and Thomas Streicher, plus others that I was going to work with more closely as the book went public, like Barbara Karpf, who was the liaison for distribution and publicity.
4. Looking at the Kehrer Catalog.
While waiting for the next round of adjustments to my layouts I began to browse and study Kehrer Verlag’s back catalog, which lined the walls of much of the office. Some of my favorites were EINHEIT, ARBEIT, WACHSAMKEIT by Malte Wandel, EROS UND STASI, a collection of photographs from East Germany edited by Gabriele Koenig, and Charles Fréger’s EMPIRE and WILDER MANN. Watch for my next book, inspired by these publications (I’m joking).
5. Noting Mistakes
I’ve learned a lot from this experience, especially from the mistakes and missteps. I’ll be sure to apply that knowledge towards my next book, or a second printing of this one. I will note the names that I messed up in the acknowledgements, sorry Kelli McLaughlin (should be Kellie McLaughlin), Marisa Barnard (actually Marisa Berard), and Lisa M. Robinson (who I missed altogether). The rest of the mistakes I’ll leave mysterious.