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Aperture Beat

On Press with Aperture Production

Production coordinator Thomas Bollier walks us through the recent printing of the Aperture book Suburban, a collection of Jimmy DeSana’s earlier photographs, made from the 1970s to early 1980s. The production team makes numerous press trips each year to oversee the printing of Aperture’s books and magazine, traveling to places as diverse as Istanbul; Dongguan, China; and Verona, Italy. The DeSana book was printed at Optimal Media in Röbel, Germany, this July. Suburban will be available this fall.

This article originally appeared in Issue 12 of the Aperture Photography App. 

This is the exterior of Optimal’s printing plant and offices. Optimal also produces CDs and vinyl records—it’s one of the few remaining factories still pressing vinyl.

Books are generally printed on sheets of paper about this size, which are later folded down to produce signatures that are bound together. We check and approve the color for the printing on each side of each sheet, matching the color that appears on press with color proofs. For this project, the proofs were made for us by Echelon Color, a Los Angeles-based color separator and repro (reproduction) house we also use for the production of Aperture magazine. Color separators like Echelon convert the RGB files we receive from artists—in this case, drum scans we had made of DeSana’s original 35mm transparencies—to a CMYK color space that can be used for offset printing. They also output color proofs for us using an Epson ink-jet printer that is set up to simulate the color that will be produced when the images are printed in CMYK. This simulation is not exact, but it’s often very close. For most projects, we go through several rounds of proofing, adjusting color and contrast, and spotting and retouching when necessary. We also review the proofs with the artists when possible so they know what to expect, often comparing proofs to the artist’s original print.

Original Jimmy DeSana 35mm transparencies—the source material for the images reproduced in Suburban.

Unfolded printed sheets are left to dry after printing. With this book, the sheets went through the press a second time to apply a layer of varnish to the images. Sometimes, varnish is applied “in-line,” or in the same pass as all the other inks. In this case, we printed the varnish “off-line,” or in a separate pass. This way, the ink is let to dry before the varnish is laid on top, allowing a heavier, more glossy layer of varnish to be printed.

Here we adjust the color on the book’s cover image. The adjacent sheets laid side-by-side show incremental adjustments in the density of certain inks, with the goal of matching the color of the proof, visible in the middle. The cover will later be laminated, before being bound with the book, to add a layer of protection and a gloss finish.

A Heidelberg Speedmaster ten-color press.

The northern German landscape, as viewed from the printing plant.

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